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Snow in Odessa, Texas. Mark Sterkel/Odessa American via AP

A freak blizzard killed thousands of cows in Texas

The brutal winter storm dumped heavy snow on the northern part of Texas on 26 December.

A FREAK BLIZZARD killed at least 15,000 dairy cows in the US state of Texas and for almost two days kept farmers from milking some of those that survived, officials have said.

The brutal winter storm dumped heavy snow on the northern part of Texas on 26 December. Farmers have not yet fully assessed the damage.

Also last month at least 11 people died and dozens were injured in strong tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area and caused substantial damage this weekend, while 13 people died in flooding in the Midwest.

“They’re still trying to dig out, but at least it stopped snowing,” Kirsten Voinis, a spokeswoman for the Texas Association of Dairymen, told AFP.

Texas ranchers typically let their cows graze in pastures rather keeping them locked up in barns. The storm hit too suddenly for them to get their cows inside.

The association estimates that the storm killed about 10% of mature dairy cows in the region. It does not yet have an estimate as to how many calves and heifers were killed.

Severe Weather Jacob Ford / Odessa American via AP Jacob Ford / Odessa American via AP / Odessa American via AP

Safely disposing of the carcasses will be a major challenge.

“We usually send them to rendering, but we’re not sure if rendering will be able to handle a number this big,” Voinis said.

We’re trying to figure out if there’s wintering capacity, or if we do have to bury them. That opens up other issues… water quality and how it impacts your land.

Many of the surviving cows will also likely give less milk for months to come. They are typically milked twice a day, but the bad roads and blowing snow meant farm workers were unable to get some cows into their barns to be milked for as much as two days.

“When a dairy cow goes that long without being milked, her milk supply starts to dry up,” Darren Turley, executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen, said in a statement.

“That means the dairy cows in this region will give less milk for months to come. Less milk going to market will be felt by consumers, as well as by dairy farmers.”

- © AFP, 2016additional reporting by The Associated Press

Read: Athlone floodwaters at highest level since records began (and there’s more rain coming) >

More: While Storm Frank flooded Ireland, it raised North Pole temperatures above freezing >

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