Highway closures force Okanagan dairy farmers to dump milk as it can't get to Coast for processing

Local farmers dump milk

North Okanagan dairy farmers are being forced to dump milk after flood damage closed major B.C. highways, limiting their ability to get their product to the Coast to be processed.

Peter Hanson of HP Cattle in Lumby says for the past week he and other farmers have had to dump their milk because they can’t get it to the nearest large-scale dairy processing plant, in the Lower Mainland.

In an attempt to utilize the milk, Hanson has been feeding it back to his cows, while he’s heard other farmers are “dumping it down the drain.”

Each milk tank at his farm holds 1,000 litres, and he’s been feeding 500 litres per day to the cows.

So far, he has had to dump 12,000 litres of milk.

On Monday, Hanson was notified by the BC Milk Marketing Board that he would have to dump again, as product again can't be transported.

He says the milk can only last about one week in a chilled environment. Any longer, and it would go bad.

Hanson says the Interior should have its own dairy processing plant, given the possibility of highway closures due to road conditions and weather.

There are two smaller, independent dairies in the Interior, Dutchmen Dairies in Sicamous and Blackwell Dairy in Kamloops, but it's unclear if they could take on the additional capacity.

“It makes no sense to ship milk to the coast and then bring it back here,” says Hanson.

Milk is shipped to the Coast in tankers that can carry up to 40,000 litres, and processed and packaged for stores, then shipped back to the Interior to be delivered to stores.

He says the method is not environmentally friendly given the six-hour drive each way.

Hanson says he has been able to ship some milk to a processing plant in Alberta, but the 10-hour truck drive is not ideal.

He hopes government will help dairy farmers recoup their losses.

“Something needs to change,” says Hanson. “Within the next day or two, stores may not have milk on their shelves.”

The Interior's last milk processing plant was located in Armstrong, but was closed down by Saputo in 2004.

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