Saskatchewan couple lose nearly 30 cattle to lightning


WARNING: This story contains images and descriptions that some readers may find disturbing.

A family in Mankota, Saskatchewan says they lost 28 cattle in a lightning strike last Friday.

« It’s a big loss, but it could have been much worse, » Glen Briere told CBC. Afternoon Edition.

The Briere family was not at home in Mankota, some 270 kilometers southwest of Regina, when lightning struck. They suspect the cattle were trying to get away from the storm and approached the fence of their pasture where it happened.

There were 14 cows, 13 calves and a herd father among the dead.

« I couldn’t believe why these cows had their heads in the fence or half their bodies were in the fence, » he said.

« A calf we found there was right through the fence and it was pointing 40 feet out the other side. It kind of blew it in half. »

The Brière family lost 28 cattle to lightning last week on their farm near Mankota, Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Darla and Glen Briere)

Glen said finding his cattle in this condition was a tough pill to swallow.

His wife, Darla Briere, said farming is always a risky business prone to losses.

« But you never think you’re going to lose so many at once. It’s so shocking. In a second things can change like that, » she said.

They had 160 head of cattle, so it was a « big cut » to lose 28 head.

« The 14 cows that died, they were all raised. We lost mothers and babies inside, » Darla said.

« The leftover mothers are looking for their babies and the leftover babies are looking for their mothers. It impacts the whole herd. »

LISTEN | Darla and Glen Brière spoke with host Gath Materie on the afternoon edition:

The afternoon edition – Sask.8:34Family from Mankota Sask. losing nearly thirty of their cattle to lightning

This summer has produced numerous thunderstorms in parts of the province. Some locations experienced high winds, tornadoes, hail, heavy rain and lightning. Glen Brière and his wife Darla returned home to find that 28 of their cattle had died due to a storm. Glen and Darla joined the show to tell us more.

She said the family were lucky to have cattle insurance, but the lost calves also mean they will run out of animals for their sale next March.

In addition to the financial blow, having to dig a hole and bury the animals had an emotional impact.

« I was dragging them out of that horrible fence to the hole. It was a pretty disgusting smell. »

Glen Brière said there were 14 cows, 13 calves and a herd sire dead along a fence in their pasture after lightning struck the fence. (Submitted by Chelsey Briere)

This summer has produced numerous thunderstorms, high winds and 15 tornado touchdowns so far in Saskatchewan.

Chris Vagasky, meteorologist and lightning applications manager at Vaisala, a company that evaluates environmental models, said they detect 2.5 billion lightning events worldwide each year.

Vagasky said there are five main ways lightning can kill or injure a person or animal, with direct lightning strikes not always being common.

« In this case, all the cattle were standing against the fence and the fence was struck by lightning, » Vagasky said.

« The electric charge ran along the fence and hit each of the cattle that was standing against the fence and this is called conduction. »

Vagasky said animals are harmed by conduction relatively frequently around the world.

“Any type of animal is more exposed to lightning because its four legs are further apart than human legs,” he said. « When lightning strikes, it goes through one pair of legs, through their body, then out the other pair of legs. »

Vagasky said there had been a lot of lightning across the Prairies recently.

“We detected thousands of lightning strikes in southern Saskatchewan just over the weekend when these cattle were killed,” he said.

Vagasky said the high pressure system across the U.S. Central Plains and the Rocky Mountains is pushing storms further north into Canada, increasing lightning strikes.

He said up to 24,000 people are killed each year by lightning, with nearly 250,000 injured.

He advised seeking shelter when a storm is brewing.

« When thunder rolls, come inside. »

He said not to touch any plumbing or anything plugged into the wall when lightning strikes.

« In general, the risk of being struck by lightning is low, but lightning-related problems are very high. »


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