Dairy farmers say they’re getting hit with another costly state regulation just when they can least afford it because of declining milk prices.
Last fall, the Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that old tires used to hold down feed storage covers must be cut in half or have holes put in them to keep water from collecting, which gives mosquitoes carrying diseases such as zika and West Nile virus a place to breed.
The regulation, scheduled to take effect May 2, also limits the density tires may be stored at.
“These are deadly to cattle,” said Willard Peck, Welcome Stock Farm co-owner and Town of Northumberland supervisor. “Pieces can break off, end up in silage and kill your cattle.”
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said he’s hopeful, after discussing the situation with DEC staff, that the state will extend the deadline for complying with regulations and perhaps modify them as well.
However, farmers say cutting steel-belted radial tires leaves metal exposed that can get into feed and prove fatal to cows.
They seem very willing to listen,” he said. “They clearly did not understand the implication that radial tires are full of wire. It’s a serious issue.”
One option is purchasing truck sidewalls, large tires with sides cut off. But these aren’t as heavy, so they don’t hold down plastic feed covers as well, which causes spoilage and costs money, too.
“And they just aren’t available in the quantity all these farms need,” Peck said.
In addition, if farms buy truck sidewalls, they still have to find a way to dispose of thousands of old car tires.
“We’ve got 10,000 tires on our corn bunker alone,” said Linda Barber, co-owner of Barber Brothers Dairy in Northumberland.
Thousands more are used to hold down haylage covers, she said.
Neil Buckley, owner of Buckley Tire Service in Glens Falls, said disposal costs about $2 per tire.
“We have to dispose of everything we take off cars,” he said. “Unfortunately it’s an expensive thing.”
Buckley said he used to give old tires to farms that wanted them, but stopped doing so because of the new rules.
Barber said people who wanted to get rid of old tires would drop them off all the time.
“Not any more,” she said. “We can’t take them.”
This might prompt people to dump tires illegally in woods and along roadsides.
“It’s crazy,” Barber said of new law. “It’s going to be impossible what they want us to do by May 2. We don’t have time to do this. We don’t have the means, either. This wasn’t thought through at all.”
Restricting tire density on bunk silos contributes to spoilage by allowing air to seep in. This creates a dangerous job for laborers who would have to remove spoilage, farmers say.
The first West Nile virus outbreak in the U.S. was in August 1999 in metropolitan New York when seven of 62 people diagnosed with the disease died. West Nile virus can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
It’s transmitted by mosquitoes that become infected after biting infected birds, a primary host. An infected mosquito may transmit the disease to humans and animals.
A Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences document tells some of the problems associated with trying to make tires less welcoming to mosquitoes.
Leaving tires on rims keeps water out, but makes handling more cumbersome and difficult with the extra weight.
The document says drilling holes in sidewalls “will take quite some time to do just one tire. Also, the bit sometimes snags the steel cords, leaving sharps that can rip fingers and plastic silo covers.” Holes that aren’t big enough will quickly fill with leaves and debris.
Halving tires with a tire cutting machine can present similar safety problems with exposed wire.
Tire bead cutters can remove the tread and leave behind most of the sidewall and the bead. But much of the weight is lost, so adequate anchoring of the bunk silo cover may require more than a single layer of sidewall disks. And remaining tread sections can still hold water if not disposed of properly, the Penn State document says.
Another option would be treating water in full casing tires with a larvicide such as Bti. But these products may only be placed by a certified pesticide applicator.
Barber said she doesn’t believe bunk silo tires are the real source of mosquito problems. Some municipalities target naturally wet areas, where snowmelt and rain collect, with Bti applications each year.
“You don’t see mosquitoes here that much,” Barber said. “They’re more apt to be in a swamp than a bunker silo.”
Source: The Record New