After digging out of the storm, Lamb Farms thankful for community and safety of staff and animals

As much of December’s snow has melted away and people’s memories are tucked into winter storm history books, there are folks still assessing the damage caused to the county’s biggest industry: agriculture.

To quote Kendra Lamb of Lamb Farms, the loss was “unprecedented” in terms of milk that had to be dumped due to trucks not being able to navigate the snow-blown roads beginning that Friday, Dec. 23.

All four of Lamb’s operations in Oakfield, Albion, Wilson and Ohio had to dump milk — 46,000 gallons — from milk plants that had frozen from loss of power and then milk trucks out of commission.

“It wasn’t safe for the milk trucks to travel,” she said. “We let it run down the drain into the fields, into the manure lagoons. I think we had prepared ourselves for the possibility; we weren’t going to ask milk trucks to risk driving.”

In addition to the issue of milk product loss, there were the calves, buried in calf hutches that had to be dug out after being pummeled by driving wind and snow. It was all hands on deck, digging down to get to the hutches below, she said.

Some calves suffered frostbite and recovered, though 10 did not, and were humanely euthanized.

“The calf hutches were completely buried in snow. We were concerned our calves were suffocating. We poked holes in the snow, trying to keep them alive,” Lamb said. “We will look into insurance for the milk beyond what the cooperative would cover. We were just so thankful all our people stayed safe. I was very afraid someone could get hurt. For a number of our animals, we were thankful.”

The community has been “incredible,” she said, and everyone jumped into the fray to help out. Those who were stuck at the farm in the snow were shoveled out so that they could in turn, help to free the animals, she said.

Out of 500 calves, “we got 200 out in whiteout conditions,” she said.

The next order of business was to relocate all of those animals to a warm, safe space, as they were snow-covered and wet, with high chances of getting sick. Over the course of several 12-hour days, they were filled with removing animals, removing snow, and putting animals back into a warmer space, and repeat.

“We were stuffing calves everywhere,” she said. “I woke up and asked, ‘where are they?’ The calf facility was ground zero. This one was hopefully a generational storm. We’re breathing a little easier. I think some of us will have some trauma. This was hard. We were scared for the safety of our people and animals.”

calves_buries.jpeg

Of her 13 years with the farm, they were “the worst days of my life,” she said. Post-storm duty included ensuring as much consistency — which cows like — as possible and to keep floors stable with grit to prevent slipping on icy surfaces and maintaining a regular milking schedule.

“Overall, it was a hugely impactful storm for us,” she said. “It was very, very scary; it was just exhausting, physically and emotionally. We won’t be forgetting this any time soon.”

Lamb isn’t expecting to receive any reimbursement from the state and said the farm will be submitting a claim to its insurance company, though they “aren’t sure about our chances of success.”

A phone call to the Genesee County Farm Bureau for comment and storm-related statistics was referred to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets commissioner, and phone calls to and emails sent there were not returned.

Lamb Farms’ social media posts illustrate how the property went from a happy “Merry Xmas” photo of a colorfully lit tractor on Dec. 4 to the snow-engulfed calf hutches later that month (above), to a more serene sunset over bare roads more recently.

merry_xmas_lamb_f_arms.jpeg

sunset_lamb_farms.jpeg

The sun has set on the day, and things are starting to look a little more normal after the brutal blizzard hit on Friday. We were very hard-hit by the storm, and it has been a rough stretch for our farm team. The hard work and dedication of our team and many others willing to step in and help out has been heart-warming and so very appreciated! We end the day tired, physically and mentally, but beyond thankful for each one who has gone above and beyond to help in our time of need! merry xmas lamb farms.

lamb_calves.jpeg

Talk about a sight for sore eyes! The blizzard that hit western NY before Christmas was especially hard on our calf facility. The 500 calves in hutches all had to be dug out and relocated while we cleared snow and re-set hutches. (Before pictures included for reference) While we’ll still be dealing with residual effects of the storm for a while, it’s nice to see things returning to normal.

Our farm team did an awesome job caring for our animals and clearing snow in the worst conditions, with the help of some very kind friends and family! We’re grateful and relieved that our people and animals stayed safe during the storm … and hope we don’t see another one like that for a very long time! Photos from Lamb Farms.

Leave a Comment