RED DEER — Snowstorms were blamed for two barn collapses in Alberta Dec. 15 that required rescue operations for trapped livestock.
About two dozen dairy cows died in Lacombe County when half of a barn roof caved in.
“It was a portion of a barn, probably about a 150-foot section, with 100 cattle in there that came down because of the snow load on the roof,” said Bentley fire chief Todd Gustafson.
Volunteer firefighters from Bentley, Lacombe and Ponoka rescued 75 cows from the farm southeast of Bentley.
Given the extent of the damage to the barn and the number of animals inside, “how many cows walked out of there was kind of mind boggling,” Gustafson said.
Twenty-five firefighters were involved in the rescue operation, which used Ponoka’s emergency livestock trailer. Operations began about 3 p.m. and didn’t wrap up until 1:30 a.m.
People were inside the barn at the time of the collapse but escaped safely.
Volunteer firefighters and rescue team members in Red Deer County were also called into action for a similar emergency at almost the same time.
The roof of a barn that held 114 cows south of Red Deer collapsed, trapping some of them inside.
“Pretty much the whole length of the barn collapsed in a V-formation,” said Ric Henderson, the county’s director of community and protective services.
Fortunately, the roof collapsed in such a way that voids were left on each side so that the owner could save all of the dairy cows but six.
“Basically, where the animals were trapped there was enough room for them to stand,” Henderson said.
The tin roof fell on the backs of the cows, which were standing in their metal-barred enclosures.
Rescue crews had to shore up the barn before crews could enter.
“You always worry about a secondary collapse,” said Henderson.
Enclosures had to be moved to free the cows.
Farm owner Tom Wyntjes said he was impressed with the county’s response.
“It was pretty awesome the way they handled things there,” said Wyntjes, whose family has been dairy farming in the area since 1961.
“It took probably an hour to get the first (cow) out. Then we had to move everything to the north end and start a different plan of attack, and then it probably took an hour to get the remaining five out.”
A veterinarian checked the cows at the scene and found them to have only minor injuries.
He said it’s believed that earlier snowfalls were to blame.
“We’re assuming it’s snow load.”
Whether the barn will be covered by insurance is still to be determined.
Wyntjes said the cows will be moved to another family owned dairy barn nearby.