There was plenty of warning of the “generational storm” forecast to hit Ontario Christmas weekend. Even if the predictions changed (as weather forecasts are prone to do) and it wasn’t expected to be as bad, it was still going to be nasty.
Most started prepping mid-week, changing travel plans and Christmas celebrations. Even the churches were closed. Extra groceries were brought in, generators greased and ready to go. Both schools and school buses were shut down on Friday. Many, like our daughter who works for one of the townships, brought work home on Thursday, already determined not to travel Friday.
Some who chose to ignore warnings were stuck at airports, on board trains and in ditches as everything started clogging up on Friday. And did they ever complain about it to reporters looking for a story!
Farms across eastern North America made preparations. Extra hay was brought in to form windbreaks. A south west wind of this intensity is not that common.
By Friday afternoon Dec. 23 the heavy rain had changed to snow, the wind howled around trees and buildings, forming big drifts especially on roads with no trees on the windward side and where the road was cut below the original lie of the land. Our son moved an especially big snow drift surrounding our buildings.
Our power went out just before 5 p.m. so we milked on the generator. Fortunately it came back on at 9 p.m. It pays to be on a main line! Friends in the area had no power from 3 p.m. Friday until about 2 p.m. on Saturday, Christmas Eve.
Saturday, our normal milk pickup day, it was the same. We regularly cleared snow to ensure the lane was clear for the milk transport. It turned out to be a waste of diesel. We checked the email and phones for messages. Nothing. For the first time in 40 years we expected to have to use the “three days storage rule.” About 2 p.m. I called our milk transporter to find out if they were coming and was told “No pickups today or tomorrow. Dump your milk.”
Oh? Still nothing from either the DFO or the field reps. About an hour or so later we received an email from the DFO. No pickups Saturday or Sunday. Dump your milk. No shipping more than your normal amount on Monday.
So, we dumped our milk as ordered and cleaned the system. The first time in 40 years. Even during the ice storm they picked up if your lane was navigable and you had power to run their pump (we didn’t).
Christmas Day there was another late afternoon email as well as on Boxing Day, saying most routes were being picked up but late. Also, tanks containing more than a normal shipment would be refused.
The concept of dumping milk is frustrating. All the effort and expense of milking for nothing until we learned more than one week later we would get paid for an estimated shipment. The money comes from the pool price being lowered about $2.50/hl for every producer in the province. S–t happens on farms. But what really ticked us off was the delay in telling farmers what was happening.
The decision not to run the trucks was made either Friday or very early Saturday morning. Yet we were not emailed until late afternoon on Saturday. There was plenty of staff sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs. Some even answered calls from angry farmers. Angry not because the milk had to be dumped but because no one cared to call and advise them.
This falls into the same category as telling us two days before the end of the month that there are changes to Incentive Days, usually just after you have shipped some culls.
It is a complete lack of understanding and caring about the farms that pay their salaries. If the DFO doesn’t care to send out an email earlier then the field reps could send one to their producers or at least call and leave a message for those expecting a pickup.
Is this asking too much?
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.