TORONTO -- An Ontario dairy farmer who was told to dump 4,000 litres of milk due to fluctuations in demand and supply during the COVID-19 pandemic says he’s part of an industry-wide effort to find ways to avoid having to do that again.

Andrew Campbell, who operates a dairy farm in Strathroy, Ont. told CTV’s Your Morning that he’s been farming in the area “for the last dozen years,” and that he took over from his father. He said that they’ve never had to dispose of milk this way before.

“This is new territory for us.”

Dairy farmers have been feeling the pressure. Starting last week, numerous farmers were asked to dump milk oversupply because processing plants were not taking it as the closures of restaurants, cafes and schools took their toll on demand.

Campbell said that he had to dump 4,000 litres of milk in a 48-hour period — the equivalent of one truckload of milk.

“There’s only a few hundred producers that were asked to dump milk and most of those were farmers that were the furthest from processing plants, just to save in trucking,” he said.

The problem is with the shelf-life of milk.

“It needs to be pasteurized and processed as quickly as possible, and those supply chains are obviously challenged,” Campbell said.

Unpasteurized dairy also cannot be donated to food banks, and if it did manage to get processed, it needs to be packaged for consumers, unlike food processors and those purchasing milk as an ingredient, who may have ordered it in barrels or large bags all at once.

Right now, Campbell said, farmers are trying to figure out how to address the problem at the source: the cows themselves.

“There’s a move across the industry to see how can we reduce the amount of milk that the cows are producing,” Campbell explained.

“Maybe it’s a case of rebalancing their diet, maybe it’s a case of sending a cow (early) to their dry period — which is the period before they have a calf, where they don’t milk. Those are some of the things being discussed right now.”

Farmers are feeling the financial pinch. But those who were asked to dump their stock will be compensated in some way, Campbell said.

“What’s going to happen is that they’ll calculate how much milk that is, and then all dairy farmers across the province here in Ontario — and the same will be in other provinces — will kind of share in those losses,” Campbell explained.