PINE ISLAND, Minn. (AP) — Dairy farmers across Minnesota are struggling to find shelter for hundreds of livestock after at least 45 barns collapsed under the weight of this winter's heavy snow.
Some farmers lost animals in the dairy barn collapses, while others are scrambling to keep their livestock healthy, the Minnesota Public Radio reported.
Laura Alberts, a sixth-generation dairy farmer near Pine Island, watched the family barn's roof cave in a few days ago after the snow was made heavier by recent rains. The barn is completely destroyed and Alberts is waiting to figure out how much insurance money they will receive to rebuild.
She said her family is lucky because not one calf was lost during the collapse, and 125 animals are being moved to two different sites.
Several of Alberts' neighbors lost livestock to buckling barn structures. Jason Reber said he lost six milk cows when a barn he was renting collapsed recently, and he expects to have to put eight more down because of injuries.
Reber said the losses could cost him about $14,000, and he's still looking for places to house his surviving cattle.
The Minnesota Milk Producers Association said usually only one or two barns collapse in a typical winter. But Minnesota has suffered particularly heavy snowfall this time around, and in February alone, Minneapolis-St. Paul experienced a record-setting 39 inches (99 centimeters) of snow.
Lucas Sjostrom, the association's executive director, attributes the high volume of barn collapses this season in part to the excessive weight and volume of the snow, aging structures and building designs that are open to promote ventilation.
Gov. Tim Walz warned March 9 that the state's economy is under threat from the proliferation of dairy barn collapses this winter. Minnesota lawmakers unanimously passed legislation Thursday to help farmers repair buildings damaged by the heavy snow. The bill expands a disaster recovery loan program to include damage related to winter weather.
The Minnesota Milk Producers Association is also asking lawmakers to approve at least $30 million in assistance for farmers facing a tough time. The group plans to consult with farm experts and insurance companies about how to prevent future barn collapses.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture officials have also recorded at least 20 hog barn and 20 poultry barn collapses.