The owners of Cherry Hill Farm in Lunenburg farm are trying to recover after a silo full of grain collapsed onto the dairy barn Sunday morning, killing one cow and trapping 13 calves.
Sharon Kimball, whose parents own the farm, said it was “amazing” that no workers were hurt when the silo gave way.
One cow died, but the rest of the animals made it out of the barn safely. Sixty-three milking cows and other animals had to be relocated, she said.
She said her parents, Douglas and Marilyn MacMillan, are in their 80s and doing “as well as can be expected.”
“It was a major shock, obviously,” she said. “We are just currently assessing the situation and moving forward.”
Lunenburg police and firefighters responded to the farm on Leominster Road shortly before 11 a.m. Sunday and found that a large concrete silo containing grain had collapsed onto the face of the main barn, authorities said.
Most of the herd was out in the field, but one cow was seriously injured in the collapse and had to be euthanized, fire officials said in a press release.
Thirteen calves remained trapped inside the barn, and a tech rescue team was dispatched to the scene.
Lunenburg Fire Chief Patrick Sullivan said once they shored up an exit for the young calves, “they coaxed them out with hay,” and guided them out to safety.
It was “certainly an unusual situation,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the cause of the silo collapse is still under investigation, but preliminary findings suggest that a drainage system in the silo became plugged up and rainwater built up in the silo, which ultimately caused it to break.
Someone from the farm was inside the barn just before the silo broke, he said.
“They heard a noise, creaking and cracking,” he said.
The sounds created by the reinforced metal bands around the silo was the warning signal that something bad was about to happen. It provided a 15 to 20 minute window for the animals to be evacuated, he said.
“They were able to get animals out before it came down,” said Sullivan. “They’re very fortunate that they only lost one.”
Sullivan said the farm is now trying to save the hay and salvage as much of the barn as possible. “It’s got a lot of structural damage,” he said.
What happens next remains to be seen.
“They’re working on what the next steps are going to be,” he said.
It’s not the first time that a disaster has struck Cherry Hill Farm, which has been operating since 1951. The last time was in the early 1990s, when a barn caught on fire. According to the Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise, a newborn calf perished in the Nov. 22, 1993 blaze, which caused $200,00 in damage.
Kimball said that same barn is the one that was damaged by the silo.
“It damaged the barn so much that it’s no longer usable,” she said.
Kimball said her family is thankful for the “overwhelming outpouring of support” they’re received thus far from the town, local residents, and fellow dairy farmers. Well-wishers have provided food and have been there to listen, and dairy farmers offered to help care for their milking cows, she said. The Lunenburg Turkey Hill Family Lions Club also announced on Facebook that it would be collecting money to “assist Cherry Hill Farm in their efforts going forward.”
Jim Lattanzi, the owner of Hollis Hills Farm in Fitchburg, said as soon as he heard about the accident, he headed over to Lunenburg.
“It was quite the mess,” Lattanzi said. “I was relieved nobody was hurt.”
Lattanzi got on the phone and contacted other farmers, and helped coordinate extra cattle trailers to relocate the cows at Cherry Hill Farm. The dairy cows were ultimately split up among four area farms so they could continue on their milking schedule, he said. “Dairy cows need to be milked twice a day,” he explained.
Lattanzi himself took on the 13 calves that had been trapped in the barn after the silo collapsed, as well as 11 other young heifers that were rescued from a part of the barn that wasn’t damaged.
Lattanzi said the community wants to help Cherry Hill Farm get through this.
“It speaks to who the MacMillans are as a family, and it speaks to who farmers are,” he said. “Farmers help each other.”
Sullivan said Cherry Hill Farm is one of the last dairy farms in Lunenburg.
“Hopefully they can rebuild,” he said.