About 60 firefighters responded to the call near Steinbach, Man.
By Diego Flammini
A devastating barn fire at a Manitoba dairy farm has claimed the lives of about 800 dairy cows.
Nearly 60 firefighters from the La Broquerie, Steinbach, Blumenort, New Bothwell and Ste. Anne fire departments responded to the blaze at Pennwood Dairy around 4:40 a.m. Central Time on Monday morning.
The farm’s four barns, which house 1,000 cows, were all burning when fire crews arrived.
“What happens is the wood frame burns, the tin falls in, and you’ve still got pancakes of stuff burning inside,” Kelvin Toews, chief of Steinbach’s fire department, told CBC.
Firefighters had most of the fire out by noon but remained on scene spraying water on hot spots and a pile of silage.
The fire represents a significant loss to the provincial dairy industry.
Manitoba dairy farms produced 341 million litres of milk in the 2015-16 dairy year, Dairy Farmers of Manitoba’s website says.
The affected farm made large contributions to that total.
Pennwood Dairy accounted for about 2.6 per cent, or around 8.86 million litres, of Manitoba’s annual milk output, David Wiens, chair of Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, told Steinbach Online.
The fire also came at a time when the operation was expanding.
The farm received approval in March to increase its milking herd from 800 to 1,705 head. In addition, the operators aspired to deepen an existing manure lagoon or add a second cell.
Getting the farm’s dairy production back up to where it was before the fire will take time.
“I would absolutely expect it to be a year or two before they’re back into production on this farm,” Wiens said.
The Office of the Fire Commissioner estimates the damage between $4 and $5 million. The cause of the blaze has yet to be determined.
Members of the Canadian dairy industry posted words of support for the affected family on social media.
“Devastating. My heart goes out to Pennwood Dairy,” Cristin Vollrath, a quota coordinator with Alberta Milk, posted on Twitter.
“Our heart goes out to the owners and employees of Pennwood Dairy Inc. in dealing with an incredible tragedy,” Dairy Farmers of Canada said on Twitter.
Farms.com has reached out to Dairy Farmers of Manitoba for comment.
Lyza Sale/CBC photo