Missouri farmer Jared Blackwelder found a horrific scene when he went to gather his dairy cows for their evening milking Saturday.
Thirty-two cows lay dead on the ground.
A veterinarian confirmed a lightning strike killed them. Clustered together under the trees, the cows probably were trying to find shelter from the storm.
“I went down over the hill and seen them laying there,” Blackwelder told the Springfield News-Leader. “They were just piled on top of each other. They were huddled up, trying to get out of rain.”
Stan Coday, president of the Wright County Missouri Farm Bureau, was stunned by the number of cows that died. The insurance company posted photos of the devastation on its Facebook page. Thousands of reactions and messages of condolence have poured in from around the world.
“It’s a common occurrence. It does happen,” Coday told CBS News. “The thing that made this the worst was just the sheer number of cows that were affected.”
The vet told Blackwelder the most cows he’d ever seen killed by lightning was six.
“You’re at the mercy of mother nature,” Coday told CBS.
Blackwelder saw and felt what he suspects was the killer lightning blast as he finished milking the cows right before the sun came up on Saturday. He farms just outside Cabool in Texas County.
“It was so bright I couldn’t hardly see,” he told the News-Leader.
Blackwelder, who had lost three cows before to lightning, got into organic dairy about a decade ago. He estimated his loss at more than $60,000, about $2,000 to $2,500 per cow. He wasn’t sure whether his insurance would cover the entire loss.
“When they get hit by lightning, you can’t use them,” he told the newspaper. “It blows them up from the inside.”
He has about 120 cows left.
“It’s not like they are pets,” he told the News-Leader. “But the ones I’m milking, I’ve raised every one of them. Dairy cattle are a little different because you mess with them twice a day. It knocks you hard.”
Farm Bureau’s Facebook post about Blackwelder’s loss had been shared more than 16,000 times since Sunday afternoon.
“Sending prayers from over the pond in Scotland,” one person wrote. “Regardless of what the cattle were used for, they are not only someone’s livelihood, they were living beings. I truly hope you recover from this.”