Central California between Bakersfield and Redding is home to approximately 2.5 million cattle. Roughly 25,000 died because of the triple-digit temperatures since July 14, according to Andy Zylstra, president of the California Dairy Campaign.

"The timing is horrendous," he told AFP. "The price of milk is down 30 percent while feed, fuel, electricity prices are all up, and now we have these tremendous losses. It's just a kick in the head." The losses amount to 1,500 to 2,500 dollars per head. Milk production in central California is also down.

Tulare-based Land O' Lakes Creamery normally produces 1.6 million gallons (6.0 million liters) of milk daily. The company has been reporting losses of 400,000 gallons (1.1 million liters) a day, according to Zylstra.

Disposal of the cattle creates another economic drain on strapped dairy farmers, and the sheer numbers of carcasses heading to the rendering plants has forced some counties to declare a state of emergency. Normally outlawed as a disposal method in California, many of the dead cattle are buried in landfills or composted on site.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.