Virginia ice storm damage reaching into millions
Virginia’s farm fences have suffered major damage from two February ice storms that hopscotched across the state.
Long and short-term power outages added to the misery for many, affecting both farming and domestic life.
Virginia Cooperative Extension reported that by late Feb. 24, damage assessments had reached $12.2 million from the ice storms across eight counties.
The ice storms hit in the lower tier of counties along the North Carolina border for the most part.
Dan Goerlich, VCE associate director of economy, community and food, said 77 percent of this damage or $9.6 million is in fencing brought down by fallen trees and limbs.
“The remainder is the value of cattle weight loss (Pittsylvania County), structural damage, cover crops and the deaths of two cows,” he wrote in an email.
In Brunswick County “there is likely not one agricultural operation there that has been spared fence damage,” he added. “In Mecklenburg County, Extension agent Taylor Clarke estimates that 75 to 89 percent of the fences in the county will need repairs. Most of the producers that he has spoken with have stated they will still be repairing fencing for several months.”
Floyd County Extension John Vest said some of the pastures look like they have been tilled after livestock grazed on the saturated ground.
He noted that the wet conditions were making it difficult for farmers to get to where they needed to be to feed hay.
Vest said haylage systems have also been victims of the ice storms. The rows of plastic covered haylage along hayfield fences have been hit by fallen limbs, tearing them. These holes need to patched quickly to avoid loss of the haylage, he added.
Goerlich said the wet ground also is limiting repairs that need any type of machinery to accomplish.
“My understanding is that, at the time of this message, many farmers have only begun to fix fences and have concentrated their efforts on fencing that is actively enclosing livestock,” he said. “There are also countless trees in fields, pastures and farm roads. These will need to be moved for livestock safety and spring planting. The ice storms also had a significant effect on timber production in some areas as loblolly pine plantations have sustained severe damage.”
The Virginia Department of Forestry has not been able to determine losses to the timber industry at this time. Michelle Stoll, communications officer, reported that the agency has been helping open roads where trees have been closed. They have worked in Nottoway and Dinwiddie counties as well as New Kent County and the Northern Neck.
Goerlich noted that many producers ran generators at length during the power outages. Several periodically swapped between home, livestock waterers, and greenhouses depending upon the nature of their operation.
Eric Paulson, executive director of the Virginia State Dairyman’s Association, credited the use of generators by dairy farmers with keeping cows milked and milk cooling during the outages.
The dairy farms were prepared for the outages, he said.
He said he had not heard of any problems with transporting milk, either.
The cost of fuel for running those generators also will be calculated in the toll the ice storms took, Paulson said.
In Franklin County, a major dairy area, some farmers were still struggling with the loss of power days after the ice had melted and spring-like conditions were on their way.