Alberta dairy farmers are experiencing the same challenges as the rest of the agriculture industry due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Black Press file

Alberta dairy farmers are experiencing the same challenges as the rest of the agriculture industry due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Black Press file

Alberta dairies feeling the pinch because of COVID-19

Quotas being adjusted to meet the new reality

Large fluctuations in the demand for milk is challenging Alberta dairies.

Tom Koostra, board chair of Alberta Milk, the non-profit group that represents the province’s dairy producers, said the restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 virus have meant changes to how much is being sold.

“The demand for dairy has been erratic during COVID-19. With the closure of non-essential businesses, there has been a decline in demand,” said Koostra, a Ponoka County dairy producer.

“But, we are not alone, as many in the agriculture sector are impacted, whether it be livestock or fruit and vegetables. We have also all been hit by the disruption in supply chains and at processing plants.”

Recent reports from other provinces and the U.S. have shown producers dumping thousands of litres of milk that can’t be sold. Koostra admits that is one thing that Alberta has done its best to avoid, but it is happening in certain cases.

“This is a global issue facing all dairy farms, and is one that local farms unfortunately have to face as well,” he said.

“Our farms have done an excellent job of better aligning supply with demand now, but these are really unprecedented times for the industry.”

He added that producers have also been working to get some of that unsold milk distributed to food banks.

There was a reduction to producers’ April milk quota to better reflect the changing market, Koostra said.

Those changes include a huge number of restaurant closures, far lower demand from caterers and food outlets that remain open, as well as a decrease in demand from industrial-sized commercial operations.

Koostra added producers are continuing to make adjustments that reflect the new reality imposed by the virus restrictions.

“Our farms are operating differently now to help stop the spread,” he said.

“Generally, only essential service providers are welcomed on farms now, like veterinarians or feed distributors.

“If issues can be solved using video or a phone call, farmers are using other means to ensure their herd is well taken care of. Extra cleaning is also a priority for farms.”

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