Farm lightning strike proves costly

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

MONTEREY &045;&045; A life in the cattle industry didn’t prepare Monterey farmer Lynn White for what he saw Wednesday afternoon.

Storms and strong winds that day brought a bolt of lightning that struck the hay ring on White’s farm while 11 of his cows had their heads between the metal bars, eating hay.

A phone call from a friend brought White home to find the solid black cows dead, laying on top of each other in a ring around the hay.

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&uot;They had hay in their mouths laying on the ground,&uot; White said. &uot;I’ve been around cattle all my life and this is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this.&uot;

Financially, the lightning cost White around $15,000, but the long-term effects will be more damaging, he said.

&uot;The real loss is what you lose over the next 10 years. They would have a calf a year for about 10 more years.&uot;

White farms not only commercially, selling the cows for meat, but for seed stock, breeding healthy, registered cows and bulls. Insurance doesn’t cover the losses of cows bred for seed stock.

&uot;The genetics you had built up is what you’ve lost,&uot; he said.

The dead cows are about 10 percent of White’s cattle, and they left behind nine calves, none of which are weaned.

So Friday night, the second full day without their mothers, the calves were starting to get adjusted to the new way of feeding.

White, his wife Dana and son Landon, spent more than an hour wrestling with the calves to make sure they each consumed two quarts of powdered milk from a bottle.

&uot;Last night we had to straddle them, pin them against the wall and force them to take it,&uot; Dana said Friday.

The calves, between 14 days and 54 days old, were unaccustomed to the bottles, but are learning fast, White said.

&uot;I told them last night they needed to cooperate because I was all they had left,&uot; White said, while working with a slightly unruly calf.

Normally calves are weaned at around 8-months-old, but White said he hopes to get this set on feed within the next two weeks. The 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. feedings are adding several extra hours of hard work to the White family’s day.

Of the nine calves, five are bulls that can grow to 2,300 pounds.

White said he spent some time Thursday researching lightning strikes and cows and found one similar incident in Arkansas where 20 cows were killed.

&uot;We are just thankful he wasn’t out there putting out hay and that no one was hurt,&uot; Dana said. &uot;It could always be worse.&uot;