Barn collapse kills cattle, threatens future of dairy farm
The collapse of a barn roof near Rocky Mountain House on Monday killed 11 cattle and put the future of a dairy farm at risk.
The building owned by the Simmelink family is the tenth active barn to collapse under the weight of heavy snow this winter.
Now the family wonders if they can afford to rebuild a business that has lasted three generations.
“Yeah it's been a way of life, the way I grew up, it’s what I love doing,” Devon Semmelink said.
“For me, I'd probably go look for a job at another dairy. But for dad, it's a lot tougher to move on, and grandpa.”
The collapse occurred on Monday morning 20 minutes after David Semmelink and his two sons left the barn.
“We heard this big crack. I thought it might have been a delivery truck in the yard so I looked out,” he said. “I didn't see anything so I was walking to the shop to get a truck out and I noticed the whole barn was gone.”
The cows and their calves were trapped inside. David Semmelink says he could hear that the animals were stressed.
“They were trying to get up,” he said. “You could hear them pushing against the tin and the penning and stuff.”
Firefighters cleared an area for the animals to get out. Some walked; others were dragged on tarps.
The last animal was freed nearly 14 hours later. The uninjured cows were taken to four neighbouring farms. Six cows and five calves were killed or had to be put down.
“You know it always hurts to put an animal down you work with six to eight hours a day,” Devon Simmelink said. “But in the end you're just happy they weren’t suffering anymore.”
The family is grateful for the help of the community and relieved they weren’t inside the barn when it collapsed.
Now they have to deal with the insurance company and decide whether or not they want to rebuild.