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Farmers throughout Tulare County have been out in force the past week reinforcing levees and riverbanks, including near Tyler Ribeiro's Rib-Arrow Dairy. Photo contributed

published on March 20, 2023 - 3:56 PM
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Rain and snowmelt have flooded parts of the Central Valley, jeopardizing land dairy operators need to feed their cows.

If ground can’t be dried out in time for the next planting, ranchers will be in a tough spot given water restrictions imposed in the past few years.

Farmers throughout Tulare County have been out in force the past week reinforcing levees and riverbanks, said Tyler Ribeiro, partner with Rib-Arrow Dairy.

His Tulare dairy was fortunate, Ribeiro said, as the North Tule River broke its banks on the opposite side from his dairy. Facilities on the opposite side of the river were less fortunate, with some people having “lost everything,” he said.

Farmers from all over showed up with tractors, backhoes and more to shore up banks, Ribeiro said.

“There wasn’t a loader or an excavator that wasn’t in use,” he said.

What’s impacted the dairies, though is the winter wheat now destroyed by flooding. Growing has been limited by water policies over the past few years. If any acreage was destroyed, chances are that was all a grower had, said Ribeiro.

The first corn silage will be planted in May, so if the ground doesn’t dry out by then, relief may not be coming any time soon.

Another atmospheric river is forecast to hit the Central Valley again to last through Wednesday with rain amounting to as much as an inch, according to the National Weather Service.

For dairy operators, wheat is grown in winter to feed cows while corn is grown in summer.

Considering the price to truck out wheat and corn, it effectively only has a ten-mile radius, said Ribeiro.

Alfalfa can be shipped in, but water and demand have pushed prices upward.

“We’ve seen alfalfa prices at $200 a ton a few years ago, now it’s going for $475,” Ribeiro said.


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