Jerry Dakin won’t ever forget the terrified bellowing of his cows at the height of Hurricane Irma.
Irma lifted the roofs off several of his barns, causing damage estimated at $250,000 or more, but mercifully spared his cows.
After the storm, the real challenge presented itself: Dairy cows have to be milked.
Dakin Dairy, 30771 Betts Road, markets milk across Florida, south of Interstate 4 all the way to Miami.
But what do you do when a killer storm cuts off power to millions of Floridians, leaving shops and markets in the dark?
With neither a way to store all the milk that cows continue to produce nor a functioning market to ship it to, the only recourse is to dump it.
As of Wednesday, Dakin had dumped 50,000 gallons of skim milk down the drain.
Dakin Dairy was forced to start dumping milk Friday afternoon, plant manager Tony Wahl said.
This product is like gold. It made me really anxious and concerned to see it going down the drain.
Plant manager Tony Wahl
“This product is like gold. It made me really anxious and concerned to see it going down the drain,” Wahl said.
Dakin said the challenge presented to his dairy by Irma is the greatest he has seen in his 49 years.
“Stores aren’t accepting milk right now because they have no power,” he said.
Dakin Dairy was unable to ship milk between Friday and Tuesday because of the disruption by Irma.
“The best thing that anyone can do is buy a gallon of milk. It could clean out the pipeline,” Dakin said.
“I am amazed that none of our cows were hurt,” he said, adding that heavy farm equipment was used to encircle the barns to minimize damage. “I thank everyone in the community and the dairy industry for their prayers.”
Dakin Dairy is the last dairy farm operating in Manatee County. The Dakins have operated dairies in Manatee County since 1973.
The company has embraced agri-tourism, offering farm tours, a six-acre corn maze, cow train ride and play area. Dakin Dairy operates a market on-site and a dining area.
The company has also sought to expand its offerings, and in 2016 began making and selling cheese.