Thursday, July 27, 2006

Happy cows? I don't think so...

From the San Jose Mercury News:

The record-setting heat wave blamed in the deaths of at least 50 people has also killed thousands of dairy cows and other livestock, leaving farmers with piles of carcasses and creating a backup at factories that turn the dead animals into pet food.

A combination of sweltering temperatures, growth in the state's dominant $5 billion dairy industry and fewer plants to properly dispose of the animals have forced several counties to declare a state of emergency, allowing the dumping of dead livestock in landfills - something usually outlawed because of the health risks.

"But what can we do? We have to weigh the possible contamination to ground water versus piles of dead cows stinking and attracting flies," said Phil Larson, chairman of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Fresno County, which reached 113 degrees in recent days, was one of the first to declare an emergency when a plant that handles the bulk of the region's dead animals broke down earlier this month. After the old carcasses began decomposing in the searing summer heat, county officials were forced to make the first such declaration in the county's history, Larson said.

"It wasn't any easy solution. It's not something we want to continue but we can't have piles of dead animals laying around," he said.

Dairy farmer Brian Pacheco said he sometimes waits days before a rendering plant will pick up his dead cows.

"And when they do come, they only take the ones that died that day," said Pacheco, who uses Baker Commodities, a rendering plant in Kerman. "I'm left with the old bodies."