FAIR OAKS, Ind. (AP) — The cows are braving the cold at Fair
Oaks Farms, but the milk they’re producing is going down the drain.
The deep freeze ground distribution to a halt at the
northwest Indiana agribusiness, which operates a popular tourist attraction off
Interstate 65. Even in the winter, families passing through Indiana on their way
to Chicago or Louisville, Ky., stop to see cows being milked or calves birthed.
Fair Oaks Farms’ dairy trucks were left stranded in northern
Indiana, Indianapolis, Kentucky and Michigan after treacherous conditions forced
the closure of I-65 and Interstate 94 on Jan. 12-13. I-65 reopened Jan. 14.
Meanwhile, the dairy cooperative’s 35,000 cows didn’t stop
producing milk on Fair Oaks’ 10 member farms.
“The loss is substantial in the case of Fair Oaks Farms,”
Mike McCloskey, chairman of the board, told the Journal & Courier.
“We don’t stop milking. Unfortunately, we have to let the
milk go down the drain because capacity for storage on the dairy farm is full.
Because the trucks can’t come back to pick up the milk, we don’t have a choice
but to continue to milk the cows — because they need to be milked.”
The company is taking between a $400,000 or $500,000 loss
each day for milk that doesn’t make it to the marketplace, McCloskey said.
“We’re dealing with a quarter of a million gallons a day
that will be lost,” he said. “Maybe a little more if things don’t get a little
On the bright side, the cows have not suffered.
“The cows are in great shape,” McCloskey said. “They don’t
mind the cold, and they’re happy if they’re milked. All we’re seeing is an
unfortunate economic loss.”
Catching up will be a slow process. Even though I-65 has
reopened, travel conditions are far from ideal.
“We’ll probably continue to have to allow some of the milk
to go down the drain,” McCloskey said. “As trucks start filtering through, we’ll
start delivering milk — we don’t want to put our drivers at risk, so although
the freeway may be open, we do understand how dangerous it is.”
The interruption affects Fair Oaks Farms’ customers
throughout the Midwest.
“Our customers understand it is a weather condition and
something that would be very, very dangerous for our drivers,” McCloskey said.
“They want to obviously get milk processed and into their supermarkets, which is
really important for them and their customers.”
Fair Oaks Farms is one of Newton County’s largest employers.
“Whether it’s Fair Oaks Farms or any other business or
manufacturer, anytime you get a situation like this, it does have potential for
devastating effects,” Newton County Commissioner Kyle Conrad said. “We hope they
get back up to full production soon.”
Until then, McCloskey is looking on the bright side.
“Any business, they always have risk, and this is one of
them,” he said. “We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to get through most of
these storms the last 10 years without going through so much loss.”
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