Millennium bug threatens dairy farms, ag agent says : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Published Thursday, June 3, 1999

Millennium bug threatens dairy farms, ag agent says Statewire

PORTAGE, Wis. (AP) -- The millennium bug that might interrupt electrical supplies could cause a financial crisis for dairy farms, an agricultural adviser says.

Many farms lack emergency generators or other alternative sources of electricity to keep milking machines and refrigeration equipment operating, Bob Kaiser of the University of Wisconsin Extension says. A farm could lose hundreds of dollars a day.

Furthermore, cows whose milking is halted may stop producing.

" If we cease milking, the cow will dry up" and must give birth before resuming, a process that can take months, he said.

Kaiser offers the view concerning the Y2K or " year 2000" phenomenon, referring to date-oriented software that may be unable to handle the switch from 1999 to 2000 next January, halting computers worldwide.

Public utilities are spending millions of dollars to get their computers Y2K-compliant. They offer assurances that electricity will be available.

If not, farmers can resort to neighborly assistance like sharing generators, Pardeeville farmer Ralph Levzow said, sharing generators.

" Most can get by if the power is out for a couple of hours, " Levzow said, " but if the power goes out for days, they will have some difficulties."

Fewer than one-fourth of the dairy farms in the Columbia County area have backup generators, Kaiser said.

Some older farms may have an advantage with equipment that can be operated with a tractor power takeoff, he said.

The alternative of old-fashioned hand milking is unrealistic, Levzow said.

" It' s pretty much impossible" because modern cows produce as much as 80 pounds of milk a day, he said.

" You would really need to have conditioned hands. After about five minutes, your hands wouldn' t be able to take any more, " he said.

" In addition, most cows aren' t used to being milked that way and won' t cooperate. Milking by hand is really not an option."

UW Extension adviser Brian Holmes said a typical dairy farm would need a generator with a capacity of 25 kilowatts.

Bernie Olson, head of the tool department at a Baraboo store, said a generator worth 10 kilowatts costs about $2, 500 and that there is a customer waiting list.

" I think this Y2K thing is the biggest reason for it, " Olson said. " We had eight 5, 000-watt generators allocated to us a couple of days ago and they were gone the same day because of back orders."

Levzow said he bought a generator after an ice storm knocked out power for several days. It costs about $4 an hour to run, serving his milking and refrigeration operations, plus pumping drinking water for the livestock, he said.

-- Arlin H. Adams (, June 03, 1999


Some of the farm journals were talking about this late last year. Here in the west it is just crazy to assume, "we could always milk by hand". As you say, the cows aren't used to it, and imagine trying to do that with a 1,000 head milking herd 3 times per day! And, if those cows all go dry at once, so long Mr. Dairyman.

If those operators aren't ready next January, there will be a lot of foreclosures next summer.

-- Margaret (, June 03, 1999.

Now, dagnabbit! Someone has not been following their script at all. Yer s'posed to say:

"Everything is just fine, there ain't gonna be no problems, it's all a buncha hooey, and if it ain't, we'll just go back to doing it by hand!"

Dept. of Ag will no doubt have a little talk with these folks about encouraging panic 'n' suchlike...

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), June 03, 1999.

Let me be the first to say...Bullshit!

Whoever wrote this crap didn't do any investigating. There isn't a dairy within 100 miles that doesn't have generators now. Know why? power outages. you have to have some way to keep the milk cool between milkings (this is accomplished by dual-lined tanks) if the power foes out, the milk gets warm and you dump the whole tank. Some smaller dairies are only on a pickup schedule of every other day...

The hand milking would be tuff, but it is doable in a pinch. I've done it (200 head, twice a day) So don't give me any of this bullshit newsprint story of "ag ain't gonna make it".

An y2k freaks come near us and ferdinan the bull gets loose from his pen...on purpose!

-- Old McDonald (had@farm.eiei-o), June 03, 1999.

BTW...the generators are run by tractor P.T.O. hook-up and ALL farmers have tanks of fuel on hand!

-- Old McDonald (had@farm.eiei-o), June 03, 1999.

200 cows, twice a day, by hand. ROFL! That's a good one, Old!

-- David Palm (, June 03, 1999.

Old Macdonald said The hand milking would be tuff, but it is doable in a pinch. I've done it (200 head, twice a day) So don't give me any of this bullshit newsprint story of "ag ain't gonna make it".

200 head twice a day? By yourself? You are so full of what comes out a cow's ass I can't believe it. I did a little milking as a kid on my aunt's farm. You can't milk a production dairy cow in ten minutes and IF YOU COULD it would TAKE 33 HOURS TO MILK 200 HEAD JUST ONCE.

You are a lying SOB.


-- Will Huett (, June 03, 1999.

I'm going to have to agree (somewhat) with Old Mac on this (although nowhere near as passionately).

On the back-up power issue, _every_ dairy farm I know of (here in the Pacific Northwest) has _some_ kind of contigency for that. Remember everyone, this is how the farmers make their living. Power outages for dairies are not at all uncommon, and because some are so remote, they tend to be the last on the priority list for fixes.

I have also visited the large commercial dairies is northern Cali. (1,000+ head) These places run 24/7 and can afford NO interuptions... they are pretty much self contained as far as I saw (one of them had huge underground fuel tanks and a semi-tanker truck came in once a week to top it off. Glad I don't have _that_ fuel bill!)

I do find it hard to believe that farmers (dairy or otherwise) would be caught flat-footed [or would that be "cloven-hoofed"? (:] in the short term. Lots of "down to earth" folks living off the land and all. Long term trouble would indeed be a different story.

This brings up my point of dis-agreement with Old Mac. It is just plain _not_ feasable to milk that number of cattle by hand. It doesn't matter if you have 50 people doing it, how would you cool the milk? (milking by hand assumes no power AND no back-up generators) Wholesale buyers will _not_ pick up warm milk (at least in my experience) so what do you do with it? dump it? (believe me, we've had our share of anti-biotic contaminations...that milk stream running from the tank to the manure lagoon is enough to make you cry...)

On the other hand; if things really go south... the dairy farmers could trade milking for milk...hmmmm. wonder if that would work in a pinch? "free milk if you do the milking"! What do you think?

(By the way, as a youngster we milked 75 head a day, twice a day. But there where 6 of us, 3 to a shift. took roughly 6 1/2 to 7 hrs. The cows didn't produce like they do today, either.)

-- Milk Maid (among@thecascade.mountains), June 03, 1999.

That was my point as well, Milkmaid. I live in the country and I too find it hard to accept that the dairies would get caught with their udders down. The power goes out here often enough as it is.

I just couldn't let that fool get away with "I milked 200 head twice a day and walked uphill both ways to the barn" crap.



-- Will Huett (, June 03, 1999.

Sorry to differ in opinion, but I know for a fact that NONE of the dairies in my county have a backup generator. Of course, there are only four left and they have only a few hundred head each. I have spoken to each personally about y2k risk assessment, the embedded chip problem that might effect critical equipment and potential problems with transportation. The rest is up to them. I think one did buy a generator.

I also worry about waste disposal. CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) are under strict water quality regulation and the EPA has already stated it will cut no slack. Dairymen commonly use pumps to move waste and flush out confined areas with water.

I recently read a story connected with the Ice Storms about a dairyman who was lucky enough to have Amish neighbors who helped him out with milking and taking the milk off his hands.

Here are some websites with dairy info. for those interested: ahQ99X&pg=/et/99/3/11/nbug11.html and our website has an extensive webpage on ag/rural y2k issues

-- marsh (, June 03, 1999.

Here's how it used to be:

"Only now did I realize that my little brother and I had traveled ten thousand kilometers to milk cows. Wet and dirty cows. We had arrived in greener pastures in the Evergreen State but our future did not look rosy any more. It was green. Cowshit green.

H. instructed me in the fine art of milking. I had to bow down between warm, wet bellies and wash the filth off udders with a rag soaked in chlorinated water. This quickly transformed into a potpourri of major barnyard products, cowshit, cowpiss, and mud with dying organisms. Now I could be a scientist having a hand in the proverbial primordial soup.

After I washed a cow I fastened a rubber belt around its multi-stomach blimp, suspended a vacuum extraction pail from it and sucked four teats into its rubber-lined cups. These massaged out the barnyard by-product, milk. I used two such devices. In the meantime H. sat on a milkstool in between cows and milked by hand.

When the cow bag felt empty, I removed the milk machine and poured its contents into the open buckets waiting in the middle of the barn. All the cows aimed their backs to this area. Intermittently they took turns decorating these pails and everything else with the color theme of this state. Thats why we had to wear rubber boots. They were much more practical here than those pointy cowboy boots in the movies.

When the buckets were full, full of milk that is, I carried them, two at a time, up the hill to the milkhouse where I emptied them into big cans to be picked up by the creamery. Then I returned to the barn to continue service the cows until they were all clean and empty.

After we finished milking we let them out of the barn again. H. told me to take all the milking equipment back to the milkhouse and wash it. When I was done, I had to harvest the main product, in terms of weight and volume, cowshit, mixed with cowpiss. By myself.

She instructed me:

"Clean up the barn. Scoop up the manure and dump it outside that door. There's a wheelbarrow out there. There's lime in that big box. Spread it around the barn when you're done with the manure.

She pointed to the big doors she said:

Also scoop up the cow pies in the loafing shed. Its pretty dirty. Then spread some wood chips around.

She lead me up to the milkhouse where she continued her instructions: Wash the milk equipment. Put two big handfuls of chlorine powder into the water. To kill germs, and help you get cancer she might have added, I will go and make breakfast."

"OK," I mumbled meekly, intermittently and unenthusiastically to her instructions.

How did I get into this? I can hardly wait to clean up.

A couple of days before Little Brother and I had arrived from another continent. Just a few hours ago we finished crossing a continent. We were torn from our homeland, tossed around the Atlantic, traveled alone across America to the unknown. I had no idea if we would have to continue to work like this and for how long. My mind focused only on the moment. My soul remained in a dungeon like I'd seen in the castles. It was safer there. This was neither the time, nor the place, to think.

What is brother doing? Hope he does not have to do this. Don't think about it!

After I finished my chores I went back to the house, left my boots outside, and went in with stocking feet. H. advised me to wash in the kitchen sink:

Wash your hands. You must be hungry. Ill cook you some oatmeal. The girls are still in bed. Theyll eat later.

F. kept looking at me.

Why is he looking at me like that? What am I doing wrong?

Finally he popped: "Don't use so much water. From now on youll wash in the tub outside."

I had noticed a pre-cast concrete laundry tub near the back door as I came in. It would be my personal bathroom.

H. served me oat mush. I sat alone at the table, gazing at my food and forcing myself to take a bite. It tasted like cardboard. I felt nauseous. When I should have been ravenous I had no appetite."

-- Not Again! (, June 03, 1999.

no way no how you personally milked 200 head twice a day yourself- unless you now type with your toes!

anyway- mentioned the y2k thing to the honor student high school son of a local dairy farm and he said- huh- why should the computers care what year it is anyway? sigh.... his Mom and Dad are both Ivy league type college grads too ..... they do have a pto operated generator though- power goes down a lot out here in the best of times.....

Anita- who milks goats (by hand)

-- anita (, June 03, 1999.

There are too many cows in this world. Not far from my home someone built a "dairy." It is located directly on the Interstate so everyone can enjoy it:

A one mile long pile of cowshit. I kid you not.

-- Not Again! (, June 03, 1999.

Welcome back, Not Again! For Newbies: he ties the past to the present and future, has a colorful way of edifying us, and knows the nitty-gritty of collapsing civilizations.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, June 04, 1999.

Not Again!!

Where ya been, buddy? Good to see you once again!

Hope you are well.

-- Glad to see you back (, June 04, 1999.

A single data point:

My father inlaw is a dairy farmer, has about 350 acres, leases another 200 or so, and has no generator. He is a hardcore polyanna. I do mean hardcore. As in we get ridiculed.

What does he do when the power goes out?

He borrows a PTO generator from another farmer a few miles away. What will he do if it hits the fan, and the other farmer needs it for himself? I don't know what he will do, but I have a pretty good idea of what he *won't* do. I don't think he'll be borrowing the other guy's generator.

From what I gather, he's not that atypical of dairy farmers around here.

-- Ron Schwarz (, June 04, 1999.

Glad to see you back with us, Not Again. I've missed your fond (and not so fond) reminiscing.


"You may forget, but let me tell you this: Someone in some future time will think of us."---Sappho

-- Hallyx (, June 04, 1999.

D. farmers, start jogging and pumping iron for it takes stamina to humor mastication machines without power. Or get slaves:

"Our slavery on the dairy farms continued for more than two years, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year, minus one day for me, when I was allowed to stay in bed and barf in privacy. I didnt know how many days Little Brother was allowed to have, to have privacy. I was grateful for this day, for we were in the prime of our lives and intellectually curious. It was a time during which one washes thousands of teats and grunts tons of cow products. This was especially appealing during the Pacific Northwest rain that drizzled from September through August, when cow bellies were caked with mud and dung; their active tails also.

Milk cartons claimed that the milk came from contented cows and was grade A; they did not stroke the egos of the milkers. They gave no credits such as Proudly Harvested by X.

During the cold months, the frost and chlorinated water dried and split the meat of my fingers. I could see my white bones and barely hold a pencil. When I told H. that I was ready to scream, she instructed me to "put on some bag balm." I greased my hands with cow grease and they improved over time. Even so I still absorbed enough stuff to develop corrosive humor."

-- Not Again! (, June 04, 1999.

Hi all,

Since I had the great fortune/misfortune to personally experience the follies of humans very early in my life for 2 decades, I foretold the present many years ago and have been preparing for it ever since.

Of course, over the years I have been received public acclaim, recognition, numerous honorary doctorates and awards for my intellectually accurate forecasts. Such as: Please fill in blanks.

-- Not Again! (, June 04, 1999.

Glad to see you back,

I am always euphoric, except when lawyers bore into my soul. I love rattlesnakes, toads, leaches, maggots. Why can't I get used to lawyers?


-- Not Again! (, June 04, 1999.

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