In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (2024)

This article contains disturbing images.

CASTRO COUNTY, Texas – The aroma of cow manure rode the spring breeze, as it always does in this stretch of Texas panhandle, where the wind lifts an endless fog of microscopic particles that infuse every mile with an earthy scent, the smell of business.

As dusk descended on the South Fork Dairy on April 10, workers busied themselves with the evening shift. Some refilled hay bins. Others checked on pregnant cows or hosed down equipment.

Extracting 24 semi-truck loads of milk from 17,500 cows daily requires a round-the-clock operation, but the crew would not be hindered by the gathering dusk. Much of this farm’s operation was indoors.

The vast barn stood at 2 million square feet, larger than two Amazon fulfillment centers end over end, a footprint almost twice the size of the Pentagon. Even by Texas’ standards, it was considered big.

Cattle pens were aligned in rows and bisected by arrow-straight alleyways, like city blocks whose gutters collected not rain but an endless stream of cow manure. Electronically controlled fans on the east end sucked air across the barn, keeping it cross-ventilated. The wind outside that evening blew at 5 mph, but inside, the fans could move it at 7.

Across this indoor city, thousands of cows lowed lazily. Then the smoke started to rise.

Juan Gutierrez noticed it first. He rode that evening in the cab of a manure vacuum truck in an alley next to Pen 3. The truck was a specialized marvel that kept the pens and alleys clear – the cows could not leave the barn, but their manure could, several times a day. The truck scraped noisily as it sucked manure into its large holding tank, which would later be emptied into a nearby lagoon.

Gutierrez, insulated from the noise inside a sealed cabin, suddenly saw smoke rising from the vehicle’s engine. Then he saw flames licking from the engine compartment. He emerged from the cab and doused the blaze with a fire extinguisher, then a second, but couldn’t stop it.

By the time he and other workers could grab more extinguishers, the fire had leaped to the ceiling, spreading out of control.

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (1)

The fire at South Fork Dairy exploded into the single deadliest event involving livestock in Texas history and the deadliest cattle fire in America in at least a decade.

The blaze made it onto news sites across the U.S. and as far away as Russia, China and New Zealand.

The headline was stunning on its face: Nearly 18,000 cows dead in a single blaze.

A Texas State Fire Marshal’s report would later document the events of the day, including the descriptions of the fire Gutierrez saw from the vacuum truck. The official report would be labeled “SENSITIVE” in red, all-capital letters and include photographs of the charred herd.

It would also back up the farm owner’s contentions, blaming the fire on the vacuum truck, classifying the event as “accidental” and concluding, “This case is CLOSED.”

But the fire marshal’s report and the barn’s charred remains underscore three overlapping issues that have yet to be resolved.

The South Fork disaster, according to the report, began with a manure vacuum, the specialized, diesel-powered truck built by a company called Mensch. This piece of farm equipment has no apparent regulation or oversight from farm, transportation or workplace regulators.

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (2)

Second, the record-setting cattle death, while shocking, was part of a clear trend. Farm operations are growing smaller in number but bigger in size, the steady rise of so-called large concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. Activists say these larger herds have led to ever-larger disasters.

Third is the unseen technology that ties the other two parts together. It merited no mention in the official report, because at South Fork, it had been planned though not yet built. It’s called a biogas digester, a series of covered ponds, sumps and pipes that concentrate animal manure and convert it into natural gas.

This so-called biogas has been touted as a win for the environment. Animal waste that would have been putting off harmful greenhouse gases are converted into a renewable source of energy for truck engines or power plants. But detractors, including some in Congress, worry that public subsidies for this energy source have become an incentive for farms to grow ever larger: a feedback loop that means more cows, more manure and more risk, in any one spot.

And while the scale of the disaster drew widespread attention, that response largely overlooked the toll on the fire’s other victims, the people who worked alongside the cows. Some feared for their family’s farming legacy. Some raced toward the flames with fire extinguishers that couldn’t outdo the flames. One, trapped behind a wall of heat and black smoke, nearly died.

Investigation:'We don’t seem to learn': 10 years after tragic Texas chemical explosion, risk remains high

A call on Facetime: Fire at the dairy farm

Ezra Linzer, 36, was playing with his 1-year-old son at their home sometime around 7:30 on a Monday evening when a text message buzzed into his phone.

Linzer, 36, helped manage South Fork Dairy and other properties owned by a Texas dairy owner who also was his father-in-law, Eltje Frans Brand.

Brand, 63, had a string of farming properties that stretched to the middle of the state. South Fork was in the panhandle, but Linzer lived with his family in Stephenville, near Fort Worth, nearly 300 miles away.

The text message on April 10 buzzed with urgency. A fire had broken out at the farm.

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (3)

In all his years managing farms, Linzer thought, there had never been a fire on any of them. He imagined a small hay fire in a remote corner of the property.

Go help put it out, he instructed.

The next text he got was even more perplexing: You don’t understand. The whole thing’s on fire.

His phone buzzed again, this time with an incoming FaceTime call request. The video call lit up the screen.

In the shaky livestream, Linzer saw flames racing through the entirety of the cross-vent barn and thick columns of black smoke pouring out of the structure.

“I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming,” Linzer recalled later.

He left his son, jumped into his truck and raced northwest.

As the Texas sky darkened, a sickening thought turned in Linzer’s mind: the farm that his father-in-law, Brand, had worked his whole life to build, was going up in flames. He gunned the truck harder.

Linzer couldn’t fathom how the fire – something he had imagined as a far-off hay pile – could have started, or grown so large. But the warning might have been parked right outside the barn for months.


The April fire was not the first time a manure vacuum truck caught fire at South Fork Dairy. In January, a dairy worker had been releasing captured manure from one of the farm’s other Mensch vacuum trucks into a lagoon on the property when that truck caught fire, according to Brand.

Manure vacuum trucks have been sucking up cattle droppings on farms for decades. But in an industry that regulates almost everything about the safety and purity of its output – milk – there is no apparent data about accidents, injuries or malfunctions of the equipment that manages its other output.

No known federal agency regulates or tracks manure vacuums. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission all confirmed they do not track any information on manure vacuum trucks, even as they compile data on tractor accidents and other farm-related incidents.

Mary Ann Sabo, a spokeswoman for Mensch, said the company has never had a claim for defective equipment that led to a fire and no recalls because of concerns over fire safety in the company’s nearly four decades of existence.

“We have a strong track record of producing safe, reliable and quality equipment for the dairy industry – and we take great pride in making the best quality equipment on the market,” Sabo said.

In 2019, another Mensch manure vacuum truck caught fire on a dairy barn in eastern South Dakota, according to local media reports. No people or livestock were hurt in that fire.

The January fire at South Fork drew no public attention. No one was injured. Farm workers parked the scorched truck east of the barn. They removed some of its tires for reuse. Other than that, they let it sit.

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (4)

Three months later, Juan Gutierrez climbed into the cab of the farm’s other Mensch vacuum truck. This time, he wasn’t outside at the holding lagoon, but inside the barn.

When fire inspectors interviewed him later, Gutierrez would explain that after he saw the flames, he first tried to drive the truck out of the narrow confines of the alley but couldn’t make it. Another employee, Nicolas Uriate, rushed over with a fire extinguisher, but together they couldn’t quench the fire.

As they examined the April disaster, fire inspectors made their way to the east side of the barn, where the Mensch truck from January remained parked.

They noted how the truck was scorched along the driver’s side at the rear compartment, where the 6.7-liter diesel engine drives both the wheels and the vacuum.

“The damage was consistent,” they wrote, “with what the driver of the manure truck on the night of the fire explained had occurred.”

Brand said investigators for his insurance company are still investigating the trucks and the precise cause of the fire.

Whether or not any regulatory body begins tracking manure vacuum truck safety, or if manufacturers find or acknowledge any shortcomings, the trucks are expected to appear in more farms across America. And those farms are growing.

Building South Fork Dairy in Texas

Eltje Frans Brand grew up around cows on his family’s small dairy farm in the Netherlands. In 1984, at 24 years old, he joined a wave of Dutch farmers who left behind the fertile lowlands of the Netherlands for cheaper, greener pastures in the U.S.

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (5)

He started small, with just 40 cows, on a farm in East Texas. Over the years, that grew into a 1,000-cow farm, he said in an interview with USA TODAY.

In time, he oversaw several farms with his wife, Joni Ann. Daughters worked at his main offices in Energy, Texas, and Brand enlisted a son-in-law and another daughter to work a farm he owns in New Mexico, as well his other son-in-law, Linzer.

In 2019, the opportunity arose to open a much larger farm in Castro County, where land was cheaper and irrigation better suited for raising cows, Brand said. After securing a 640-acre stretch of land south of Dimmitt, in the Texas High Plains, he set his sights on much bigger herds.

The signature piece of South Fork Dairy was the expansive cross-ventilation barn, a technologically advanced, climate-controlled holding pen for his milking cows.

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (6)

The enclosed barn, where the bulk of the farm’s cows would live while being milked, featured two rows of industrial-sized exhaust fans on the east side of the building, which sucked stale air out and kept a constant breeze through the structure, and a heavy curtain on the west end that opened or closed remotely depending on outside weather.

High-pressure misters kept cows cool during summer’s broiling heat, and the curtains and fans kept the barn’s interior warmer in winter, Brand said.

From his main office 300 miles away, south of Fort Worth, Brand had hands-on control of the barn’s curtains, fans and misters and a monitor for the building’s temperature – all from an app on his iPad.


Castro County wasn’t always considered dairyland. Perched in the Texas High Plains, the county sits on an ocean of yellow prairie grass stretching to each horizon and punctuated by the occasional farmhouse, grain silo or towering wind turbine.

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (7)

Dimmitt, the county seat, offers a bed and breakfast, taquerias, a Subway sandwich shop, a Sonic and not much else but the ever-present scent of manure.

Cattle ranches have operated in Castro County and nearby Hereford, for generations, but the dairy farms didn’t start arriving until the early 2000s.

Dairy producers from California and East Texas started moving to the region, drawn to the area’s cheap land, former Dimmitt Mayor Roger Malone said.

Latinos also outnumber Anglos in the county by more than 2 to 1 as they’ve stepped into roles of milkers, ranch hands and other jobs on the farms.

As of November, Castro was the fourth-biggest milk producing county in Texas, with 14 dairies churning out more than 13 million gallons of milk a month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“It’s a business,” Malone said. “It’s a big business.”

One of the more recent arrivals in Castro County is the Osterkamp Dairy, on the county’s western fringe.

Mark Osterkamp and his family moved their dairy from Southern California to Castro County in 2003, starting with 1,800 cows and raising the herd to 3,000.

On a recent afternoon there, workers dropped hay bales into feeding pens as cows waddled in for an early dinner. Unlike South Fork, Oskterkamp’s mostly Holstein cows live mostly outside.

Osterkamp said he, like others, was stunned by the news of the South Fork Dairy fire – and the sheer scope of the carnage. Such a loss would derail most smaller dairies, he said.

“How do you sustain that kind of loss?” Osterkamp said, as he drove his truck around the 100-acre farm, checking on milking cows, heifers and calves. “It was like something out of a movie.”

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (8)

Oskterkamp said Brand was investing in the latest technology in raising milk cows and was operating at a scale that dwarfed the other large dairies in the area.

South Fork’s cross-ventilated barn was considered cutting-edge and a vanguard of modern milk production among Texas dairy producers, said Darren Turley, executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen.

Brand “did everything that was available in the market to advance how he could take care of his cows,” he said. “That was the newest, most modern way to do it.”


Brand’s businesses remained family-run, differing from corporate-run farms that often draw the ire of environmentalists. He wouldn’t divulge the finances of his privately held dairies. But there’s little question that South Fork was among the biggest.

The trend toward larger CAFOs, defined by the EPA as having 1,000 or more animals, may mean fewer farms total, activists and analysts said. But each farm is bigger than ever.

In Texas, the number of dairy farms has actually shrunk dramatically over the years, from 1,924 in 1994 to 299 in 2023, according to the USDA. Yet in that same period, the total number of milk cows in the state rose from about 402,000 to 646,000.

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (9)

Activists say these big operations elbow out smaller, traditional farms. They also say larger herds mean potentially larger disasters.

The Animal Welfare Institute has tracked 6.6 million animals, including chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows, killed in barn fires since 2013.

“Because of the large operations, the death tolls keep increasing,” said Allie Granger, a senior policy associate at the institute. The South Fork Dairy fire, she said, “was unprecedented. I don’t think there’s ever been anything even close to this fire.”


Brand started South Fork with 8,000 cows in 2020, a mix of Holstein and Jersey cows, then added 9,500 the following year, bringing his herd up to 17,500 cows.

While the cross-vent barn was the signature feature, the rest of the operation was comparably high-tech.

Attached to the barn was the milking parlor. Here, cows were led onto large, slowly rotating platforms. The cows slipped into individual pens on the platform and, as the platform slowly turned, assembly-line style, a team of rubber-gloved-and-aproned female workers would wipe down each cow’s udder and attach mechanical suction cups – known as “the claw” – to each of the cow’s teats, drawing out milk.

The cows move while the workers stay in place. By the time the platform made a full turn, each udder was emptied. The cows are then led off the platform and a new batch climb aboard.

Running 24/7, the farm made enough milk to fill 24 semi-trailers each day. It was the crown jewel of a family-run operation, founded by an immigrant farmer, leading a growing industry in traditional cattle country, in a business so central to its region that it defines the very smell of the breeze.

But it was also a foray into cutting-edge technology, including a biogas system that was on the books for the farm but had not yet been installed.

Then came the evening of April 10, when Brand, like his son-in-law, got word of a fire.

He reached for his iPad to check the barn’s temperature and fan speed. The readings had stopped working.

Scene of the dairy fire

Castro County Sheriff Salvador Rivera was on a routine night patrol, driving north through the county, when he glanced into the rearview mirror. His heart leaped. A massive plume of black smoke was rising from the horizon around a half-mile behind him. He turned his vehicle around and headed toward the smoke.

The first emergency responder to arrive at the scene, Rivera pulled into the South Fork Dairy complex as the fire tore through the cross-ventilation barn and discovered a scene of pure chaos.

(Caution: Graphic image.)

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (10)

Workers pulled singed cows out of the barn or staggered around, confused. Some squatted on the dirt and cried.

Inside the barn, the fire had jumped into the spray foam insulation overhead – installed in the ceiling to keep cows cool in the withering Texas heat – and was falling off in large, glowing tongues, burning cows alive.

“It went from bad to worse in a matter of seconds,” Rivera said.

The sheriff found a manager who provided a list of the 18 workers who had been on shift that night. Slowly, they accounted for everyone – except for one: A woman who had been part of the four-person team in the milking parlor had gone to the bathroom just as the fire began. When she emerged, smoke and flame had engulfed the building and she locked herself back into the bathroom.

One of the workers called the woman on her cellphone. Rivera and others took turns urging her to come out, but she was confused and scared.

Then the line went silent. She had passed out.


On the day the fire started, South Fork Dairy was collecting its cow manure to be stored in an outdoor lagoon. But that was not the ultimate plan.

Brand told USA TODAY that his dairy was in the process of building a biogas digester, in partnership with California-based Clean Energy Fuels.

He was part of a growing trend. As of January 2023, 343 biogas digesters were operating across the U.S., up from just 37 in 2003, with another 86 under construction, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Nearly all of those – 290 – are on dairy farms.

“It’s a great deal,” said Mark Sustaire, 54, who recently installed a digester on his dairy farm in northeast Texas and feeds it food scraps and cow dung. “You’re taking a product that would end up in a landfill and dairy manure and using it to power people’s businesses and heat their homes.”

But the digesters incentivize large farms to increase herd sizes to sell their waste, essentially paying large-scale polluters to create bigger methane-laced messes then clean them up, said Rebecca Wolf, senior food policy analyst at the Food & Water Watch, a Washington-based environmental advocacy group.

Large farms also harm surrounding communities, largely filled with people of color, with pollutant runoff and aquifer contamination, she said. “The bigger the farm, the bigger the environmental challenge,” Wolf said.

Gary Foster, a Clean Energy spokesman, said digesters the company installs on farms typically cost $20 million to $70 million to build. The company had signed an agreement with South Fork Dairy but the energy firm had not started construction on the project, he said.

Foster disagreed with the premise that digesters are incentivizing dairies to grow bigger and, potentially, more prone to large-scale accidents.

“The farmers are not getting rich off these projects,” he said. “What these projects provide is a small, stable revenue stream to help offset the extreme volatility of milk prices, and the process of cleaning up manure, recaptures water for use in growing dairy crops as well as dry bedding for the cows (which helps keep them healthy).”

He restated Clean Energy’s commitment to farms such as the South Fork Dairy.

“The fire at the dairy was tragic, but Frank Brand and his team are some of the best operators in the dairy business and we have complete confidence in his commitment to safety,” Foster said.

The digesters may cost tens of millions of dollars to install – but farmers are not footing the bill alone. Chevron, BP and other energy giants are pouring billions of dollars into dairy digesters as a way to cut back on greenhouse gases, such as methane, while producing biogas. The energy companies often pay much of the startup cost of installation, then take a percentage of the revenue from the converted biogas that’s piped out of the digester. Dairies can also capitalize on federal subsidies offered to digester producers.

The rapid pace of biogas digesters appearing on farms prompted a group of U.S. lawmakers, including Sens. Corey Booker, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, to send a letter in August 2022 to the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, urging the agency to slow the incentives around the digesters.

“Factory farms produce immense quantities of waste and pollutants that fuel climate change and pollute the surrounding soil, air, and water − simply living in proximity to a factory farm can decrease life expectancy,” the letter read.


Rivera jogged from worker to worker on the burning farm, trying to decipher how to rescue the trapped worker.

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (11)

Just then, a team from the Dimmitt Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene. Rivera and the dairy workers were able to tell them where, exactly, the trapped woman was. The firefighters pulled on their bunker gear and rushed into the smoking building. Minutes later, they emerged with the unconscious woman.

She was taken to a hospital in nearby Lubbock, treated and released a few days later. (Brand declined to identify the worker, citing privacy concerns.)

“Good thing we got her and she was able to survive,” Rivera said. “Thank God no (person) died.”

Linzer arrived at the scene around 11 p.m. – he had raced across rural highways, covering more than 300 miles in just over three hours.

Firefighters doused the last of the remaining embers. The scene was staggering: Mounds of dead, blackened cows littered the farm. Rivulets of blood flowed from their carcasses. Some writhed in pain, badly burned and incapacitated but still alive, and had to be euthanized.

The barn’s fans, which had kept the cows comfortable in harsh weather, were blackened and melted from the blaze.

After inquiring about the employees, Linzer felt stunned by the sheer scope of the disaster, he said. All 17,500 cows were either dead or dying.

“It was awful,” he said. “We had a lot of cows that perished that night.”


For the following few days, Linzer was put in charge of overseeing the grisly task of disposing of the cow carcasses. Supervised by a state environmental official, workers at the dairy loaded the carcasses into semi-trailer trucks and ferried them about 6 miles down the road to another Brand-owned property, Linzer said. There, the cows were buried in three massive pits.

Brand said he and other workers were emotionally wrecked by the event. He, like Linzer, left home and drove several hours to reach Dimmit that night. He said he considers himself lucky not to have arrived at the dairy while the fire still raged, because he would have rushed into the barn to try to save the cows – and likely would have died in the blaze himself, he said.

“The only loss that could’ve been worse was losing my family,” Brand said. “The pain was so tremendous with this whole thing.”

After the cows had been cleared and the debris piled up, the Brand family made a quick decision. “There was never any doubt we would rebuild,” Linzer said. “Can’t let fire win.”

The private farm’s finances remain mostly out of view, and Brand would not comment on how much it would cost to rebuild.

The state’s fire inspectors, in concluding the fire was an accident, seemed to recognize their report would not necessarily be the end of the story.

“I understand that there will be multiple fire investigators and attorneys representing the insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, building components, and injured employees for the purpose of subrogation and personal injury” investigator Kelly Vandygriff wrote. “Because of this, we limited our investigation to the basics of determining the origin and cause of the fire.”

Brand and Linzer have their own conclusions about the fire.

Brand said the manure vacuum trucks should be better inspected. “Multiples of these machines have caught fire,” he said. “They need to be checked out.”

He also believes the spray foam insulation inside the barn should be better regulated – a sentiment echoed by his son-in-law.

By December, a tour of South Fork revealed a burned-out, half-demolished barn; blackened ceilings; piles of discarded insulation. It also showed a functioning dairy, still at work.

About 4,000 Holstein and Jersey cows now wander and low in a salvaged section of the burned-out cross-ventilation barn – signs of the dairy’s restocking of its herd.

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (12)

More than half of the barn has been demolished to make way for a new structure, still in the planning stages. One of the two rotary platforms in the milk parlor is back in operation and cows are guided on constantly to empty udders.

Brand said he’s in no hurry to rebuild – making sure they create a more fire-resistant barn – and may not repopulate his herd to quite the same numbers as before.

“I don’t ever want to see anything like this again,” Brand said.

Some of his plans remain on track.

Shortly after the fire, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted South Fork Dairy approval to install its planned digester. Clean Energy Fuels still plans to build it.

One permit from the state agency allowed the farm to expand its herd size to 32,000, which would make it one of the largest dairies in Texas.

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (13)

Someday soon, with the fire long over, the headlines forgotten, the barn rebuilt and the gas digester pumping, the signs of April’s disaster may be fully out of sight.

But in Castro County, the breeze always tells a story.

It has been months since the dead cows were hauled off, buried in the pits on the sister property down the road. But when the wind shifts just so, farm workers still detect a whiff of the charred, decaying carcasses.

“It’s death,” Linzer said. “You had a lot of cows in a concentrated area that perished. You’re going to have that smell linger.”

In Texas, nearly 18,000 cows died in a single barn fire. This is how it happened (2024)


What caused the fire that killed 18000 cows? ›

Here's how the fire that killed nearly 18,000 Texas cows got started. Investigators say the fire was an accident and started with an engine fire in a manure vacuum truck. Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune's daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

What was the cause of the dairy fire in Texas? ›

In January, a dairy worker had been releasing captured manure from one of the farm's other Mensch vacuum trucks into a lagoon on the property when that truck caught fire, according to Brand. Manure vacuum trucks have been sucking up cattle droppings on farms for decades.

How did 20,000 cows die? ›

Nearly 20,000 cows are believed to have been killed in an explosion and fire at a Texas dairy farm. The fiery blast killed more than 18,000 cows at South Fork Dairy Farms in the Texas city of Dimmitt. It was the deadliest inferno disaster for cattle in the United States in the last decade.

What caused Dimmitt explosion? ›

Investigators also found a second truck on the property that previously caught fire in the engine, the AP reported. The State Fire Marshal's Office previously said the April 10 explosion was a result of “flammable liquids expanding rapidly” after the fire started.

How much is 18000 dairy cows worth? ›

The estimated value of 18,000 dairy cows is being put at $35 million to $40 million. The Animal Welfare Institute, which started tracking barn fires in 2013, has reported this to be the deadliest barn fire to date.

How did the cow fire start? ›

O'Leary was milking her cow. The cow kicked over a lantern (or an oil lamp in some versions), setting fire to the barn. The O'Leary family denied this, stating that they were in bed before the fire started, but stories of the cow began to spread across the city.

What happened to the 18000 cows? ›

By the time workers could grab extinguishers, the fire had leaped to the ceiling, spreading out of control.

What is the largest dairy farm in Texas? ›

Faria Brothers is a large dairy with about 95,000 cows located in Texas. A particularity is that it uses a circular milking carousel, milking each cow in less than nine minutes and thus allowing seven hundred cows to be milked per hour, with each cow being milked three times a day5.

How old are cows when they die? ›

While the natural lifespan of many cows can reach 15 or even 20 years of age, the vast majority of dairy cows do not live beyond 4.5 to 6 years. This is typically the age when a female cow's milk production drops, resulting in farms sending her to slaughter.

How old are cows when they are killed? ›

How old are cows when slaughtered? Cows raised for beef are slaughtered at around 18 months old, although they have a natural lifespan of 15-20 years. Cows used in the dairy industry are generally sent to slaughter when their productivity wanes, at around four years old.

Has a cow ever saved a human? ›

A decade ago, on a dairy farm in New Zealand, an otherwise unremarkable cow, known simply as Cow 569, gained international attention after saving her farmer from being swept away in a flood, earning her a the distinction of hero.

How many dairy farms are in Texas? ›

Today, Texas has just 351 dairies but produced more than 14.8 billion pounds, or more than 1.7 billion gallons, of milk in 2020. Texas dairy producers today amount to about 12 percent of the total from 45 years ago.

How many cows does South Fork Dairy own? ›

We investigate April's South Fork Dairy fire

A year earlier, the farm had been given permission to more than double its herd size to 32,000 cows, producing at least 50% more manure than environmental officials had originally authorised it to.

What happened to cows in Texas? ›

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller told CBS News on Thursday morning that preliminary numbers show more than 7,000 heads of cattle have died in the fires, and that he believes the final toll could end up including thousands more.

Whose cow was blamed for starting the Chicago fire? ›

Catherine O'Leary (née Donegan; March 1827 – July 3, 1895) was an Irish immigrant living in Chicago, Illinois, who became famous when it was alleged that an accident involving her cow had started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

What animal caused the Chicago fire? ›

In the early hours of October 9, newspapers first reported that the blaze started when the cow kicked over a kerosene lantern while Catherine was milking the animal. After the fire was put out, the story evolved and more blame fell on the O'Learys. Some papers reported that Mrs.

What killed so much of the cattle during the 1800s? ›

The romantic era of the long drive and the cowboy came to an end when two harsh winters in 1885-1886 and 1886-1887, followed by two dry summers, killed 80 to 90 percent of the cattle on the Plains. As a result, corporate-owned ranches replaced individually owned ranches.

Why do farmers burn cows? ›

Many people are surprised to learn that nearly all cows used for milk are born with tissue that will develop into horns. That's because most farmers remove the sensitive horn tissue or the horns themselves from the cows' skulls using searing-hot irons, caustic chemicals, blades, or handsaws.

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