Dairy Farmers Prepare For the Worst in Stanislaus County

STANISLAUS COUNTY -- Water levels continued to creep up in Stanislaus County, destroying communities along the swollen San Joaquin River.

On Tuesday, Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution proclaiming a local emergency.

But Joe Victoria's biggest worry was about his cows.

"Where are you going to put all these animals in one shot?," Victoria said.

He has owned and operated A Victoria Dairy since 1982, a farm right along the San Joaquin River.

Right now, the levee is the only thing blocking the water from his 1,500 dairy cows.

"I have to go check the boils and make sure the pumps are going. We have pumps that go over there, and pump the water back to the river," Victoria said.

He is one of three dozen dairy farmers in the area who could lose their livelihoods if the San Joaquin River overflows even more.

That is why the Western United Dairymen [WUD] are reaching out to clients, advising them to prepare for the worst.

"Cows don't like being that wet. Milk production drops, they're not that comfortable in an environment of high water, so we want to make sure we get them out of there and safe as quickly as possible," CEO of Western United Dairy, Anja Raudabaugh said.

While many are making their preparations, Victoria said this isn't his first rodeo.

"This has happened once already in 1997. We got flooded like this. But we watch everything carefully. We are 24-7 monitoring the levee," Victoria said.

Back then, Victoria's survival strategy was simple - open the gates and let the cows figure it out for themselves.

"You just open the gates and see where the cows go. They're going to go to the higher grounds. They'll go through the water. They know how to swim. Oh ya. I've seen cows swim before," Victoria laughed.

However, representatives with the WUD said that is a situation they hope to dodge at all costs.

"We're going to be seeing some situations where we move cows through water. We would like to avoid that," Raudabaugh said.