A devastating explosion at South Fork Dairy, located near Dimmitt in Texas, resulted in the tragic loss of approximately 18,000 cows earlier this week, according to local authorities. The blast, which also left one person critically injured, is believed to have been ignited by machinery at the facility igniting methane gas.
The Castro County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a fire at the farm on Monday evening, and upon arriving at the scene, emergency personnel found one person trapped who had to be rescued and flown to the hospital in critical condition. The exact number of cows lost in the fire and smoke remains uncertain, but the Sheriff’s Office estimated that around 18,000 cows perished.
Sheriff Sal Rivera stated to local news outlet KFDA that most of the cows were lost as the fire spread to an area where the cows were held before being taken to a milking area and then a holding pen. He also mentioned that investigators suspected the fire may have started with a machine known as a “honey badger”, which is used for vacuuming manure and water. It is believed that the machine may have overheated, causing the methane and other substances to ignite and trigger the explosion.
The Animal Welfare Institute, based in Washington DC, expressed concern over the incident, stating that if confirmed, the death toll of 18,000 cows would be the deadliest barn fire involving cattle since they began keeping statistics in 2013. The institute called for farms to adopt common sense fire safety measures and highlighted the devastating impact of barn fires on farm animals, with nearly 6.5 million farm animals having been killed in barn fires since 2013, including approximately 7,300 cows. Between 2018 and 2021, almost 3 million farm animals died in fires, with the largest fires accounting for 1.76 million chicken deaths.
The tragic incident at South Fork Dairy underscores the need for heightened fire safety measures in farming operations to protect the welfare of animals and prevent such devastating losses in the future.