Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Commercial Dairying and Research in Southern Louisiana and Mississippi.
Mike McCormick, Southeast Research Station, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, P.O. Drawer 567, Franklinton, LA 70438, Vinicius Moreira, Southeast Research Station, Louisiana State University, P.O. Drawer 567, Franklinton, LA 70438, and Cary Herndon, Ag Economics, Mississippi State University, P.O. Box 5187, Mississippi State University, MS 39762.
On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Landfall occurred near the mouth of the Pearl River which separates Mississippi and Louisiana. Hurricane force or greater winds were felt in a 100 mile wide swath that reached inland for over 150 miles. This area in southern Mississippi and Louisiana has been known as the New Orleans “milk shed” and at the time contained over 400 pasture-based dairy farms supplying fluid milk for the metropolitan area. Although flooding was minimal on these farms, wind damaged many dairy facilities and power outages were widespread lasting from a few days to several weeks. Immediate needs were for generators to operate milking equipment and cool milk, diesel/gasoline for tractors and generators, chain saws to clear roadways, and barbed wire to repair fences. Some dairies in the more severely hit regions sold cows and ceased operations immediately or moved cows to neighboring farms. Although cattle death losses were low, milk production in the months following the storm declined from 20-40% due forage losses, increased mastitis, abortions, and other storm-related management problems. As of December 2006, short term and long term economic losses for the Mississippi and Louisiana Dairy industries were estimated to exceed 52 million dollars. In the eighteen months following Katrina the rate of dairy farm closures has doubled, averaging over 15% annually. In many respects, the dairy herd and personnel at the Southeast Research Station were impacted in a manner similar to other dairies in the area. In addition to management problems such as downed fences, displaced personnel, lack of electrical power, etc., the station found it necessary to halt several waste management, forage preservation, and cattle feeding studies.