Wildfires along the west coast not only affect air quality, but they also affect the quality of grass, which in turn leads to a decrease in the production of cow’s milk. Without so much milk, residents of the west could be at risk of a butter shortage in the near future.
Apart from the fact that forest fires have been driven out thousands of Americans primarily living in Oregon and California between 2020 and 2021, exposure to smoke can have a negative effect on human health. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the greatest threat from smoke comes from microscopic particles such as fine particles, or PM 2.5, as they penetrate deep into your lungs and cause a host of problems. In fact, experts say that particulate pollution is linked to premature death.
However, very little research has been done on the impact of wildfires on livestock health. As wildfires become more common, the new normal, this problem becomes more urgent. Show recent data that two dairy farms in the state of Idaho and Washington state both experienced a significant drop in milk production last year after a major smoking event.
As Pedram Rezamand, a professor who studies veterinary and veterinary medicine at the University of Idaho, shared: The Atlantic OceanDairy cows mainly walk outside, while humans have the luxury of going inside and breathing filtered air. Amy Skibiel, who studies lactation physiology at the University of Idaho, has led a research project on smoke exposure and livestock health.
They collected five years of data on cow disease and deaths from the two ranches in Idaho and Washington. They then considered other important metrics, such as milk production stats over a three-month period (including a one-week major smoking event) from 25 cows on one of the farms.
So far, research has shown that there was a higher incidence of an udder infection known as mastitis, as well as mortality in calves when levels of PM2.5 from airborne wildfire smoke were elevated. Aside from the smoke, higher temperatures can also be a cause of reduced milk production.
In the event that the price of milk and other dairy products in your area is rising, please check Milk Alternatives 101: Your Guide to Every Dairy-Free Milk Substitute.