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Cows and calves killed in barn roof collapse

A dairy barn north of Rocky Mountain House is the latest in the season’s growing list of roof casualties.

The Simmelink family’s barn roof collapsed under the pressure of heavy snow around 8:30 Monday morning, said Sandra Simmelink.

The barn was the larger one of two on the property and housed about 100 milking cows as well as 15 or so calves.

As of around 10:45 a.m., fire crews from Rocky Mountain House and Condor were cautiously beginning to walk through the debris to locate cows unaccounted for.

“My son believed there might be 25 to 30 cows we’ve lost but that’s not the final number yet,” Simmelink said. “They did find some in the back part of the barn that they are now trying to get out that are still alive.”

It is believed most of the calves survived.

No one was injured as Simmelink’s husband, David, had just wrapped up the morning chores around 8 a.m. and was in the house at the time of the collapse.

The entire centre section of the “pitch-style roof” went in, according to Simmelink.

“The two ends of the roof and the parlour are there but they’re twisted because of the pressure so all the walls are not right,” she said.

“It’s a plain, basic barn. Not a wide span barn, not like the newer ones, and it was the older section of it that went — we built onto it about five or six years ago.”

Simmelink’s son Brett was on scene with fire crews and said everything is “wrecked.”

“About one-third of it is down, and the other two-thirds — the newer part we’d built — is twisted. ... The older part of the barn might be about 15 years old,” Brett said.

It is the first roof collapse for the Simmelinks in all their years of farming.

They had already cleared snow off of the roofs once this year and were going to do another clearing later this week.

“You hear a lot about collapses this year but we didn’t have a wide barn and we’d been taking care of it so it’s a feeling of shock right now and trying to figure everything out,” Simmelink said.

Simmelink said one of her sons has made arrangements with other dairy farmers in the vicinity to take the Simmelink cows until a more long-term solution is available.

The Simmelinks have been running the dairy operation in the area for about 30 years.

More to come.

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