REGINA -- Dairy producers in Saskatchewan are being forced to dump some of their product due to changes in the marketplace during COVID-19, according to SaskMilk.

Since the outbreak began, restaurants and food services have stopped purchasing as much milk. While some consumers are still stocking up on milk, the situation is causing for a lot of uncertainty for Saskatchewan’s 165 dairy farms.

“Cows unfortunately don’t have a tap that you can turn off and on, they have to be milked in order to stay healthy and well and everything so milk is still getting produced, but unfortunately, some of the processors and retailers just don’t have a home for that milk right now,” SaskMilk Policy and Communications Manager Joy Smith told CTV News Regina. “Some places in Canada, and might I add, right across the U.S. and in other places in the world, some milk is having to be disposed of because there just isn’t the home for it, right now.”

Dairy farmers are a part of a pool, so producers are being paid the same whether their product gets sold or dumped.

“These farms are getting picked up, the milk is getting picked up, and then hauled to a more central location to be dumped,” Vibank farmer Matthew Flaman said. “We think it’s going to come back to normal, and the funny thing about a dairy cow is you can’t just turn them on and off very easily, so, we’re going to have to maintain some production.”

Flaman says producers are being asked to slow production where they can, but they can also help by choosing to breed slower or sending a cow that was coming to the end of its life to the beef market a little sooner.

Flaman expects ultimately a small percentage of the produced milk will be dumped, but there is also uncertainty about what will happen when the pandemic ends.

SaskMilk notes the country is in unprecedented times and customers spending patterns are unpredictable. Smith says SaskMilk is working with everyone in the supply chain and is trying to get a handle on the situation.

Smith says producers could wean some of their cows off from milking, but that comes with its own risks.

“If we started to reduce milk production a lot, what happens if demand picks up again?” she said.

“They’re getting up every morning super early and they are milking their cows, and they’re doing this to know that some milk is getting disposed is really hard for them and hard for us,” Smith said. “The last thing a dairy farmer wants to see is milk being discarded, it’s quite heartbreaking for all of us.”

Smith says donations are being made to food banks, but SaskMilk is still looking for other places for the milk to go.