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Dairy farmers were well-prepared for the ice storm

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CANTON - When 29-year-old Jeffrey C. Murrock woke up at 4 a.m. Sunday to milk the 210 cows at his family-owned dairy farm, he discovered the barn had no electricity due to the recent ice storm.

But that wasn’t a surprise.

Dairy farms across the Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties — including Murrocks Farm in the town of Pamelia — prepared in advance for power outages by making sure generators were ready to power their milking parlors. Industry leaders reported Monday that only a handful of day farmers had generators that didn’t start or malfunctioned; but those farms received assistance from neighbors by borrowing generators needed operate milking parlors.

The Murrock family, which lost power for two weeks during the famous 1998 ice storm here, already had a 250-horsepower generator ready to run Sunday morning at the 24658 Route 283 farm.

“We hooked it up right away because we already tested it before the weekend,” said Mr. Murrock, who helps manage the farm owned by his father, Darryl T. “We knew the storm was coming.”

Only about four to six dairy farmers in Jefferson County experienced problems operating generators, said Jay M. Matteson, Jefferson County agricultural coordinator.

Advancements in technology made since 1998 have enabled farms to communicate quickly with emergency personnel for assistance during power outages, said Mr. Matteson.

Dairy farms in St. Lawrence County were also well prepared for the ice storm, said Jon R. Greenwood, president of the St. Lawrence County Farm Bureau, who owns a dairy farm in Canton.

“What I’ve heard is there were a few farmers toward the Adirondacks and the DeKalb area with generators that didn’t work and were sharing a generator with a neighbor,” Mr. Greenwood said. “But the majority of farms, it appeared, did not lose power or had generators.”

Mr. Greenwood, who lost power for eight days at his farm during the winter of 1998, was fortunate not to lose power over the weekend. He said the 1998 storm spurred farmers who weren’t prepared for emergencies to upgrade their equipment. The majority of farms in the north country, as a consequence, were well prepared for this storm.

“People that didn’t have generators before went out and got them; of if they had a generator, maybe they got a second one,” Mr. Greenwood said. Dairy farms “can’t afford to be down for any length of time because they need to milk cows.”

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