Barn fire kills 30 cows including record-setting cow Gigi
TOWN OF BROOKLYN, Wis. — Firefighters spent hours putting out a barn fire in Brooklyn Tuesday where at least 30 cows died, including a record-setting cow.
Brooklyn Assistant Fire Chief Leif Spilde said crews were called just before midnight to Bur-Wall Holsteins, owned by the Behnke Family, which is part of Rolling Hills Dairy Producers Cooperative.
In 2016, one of the Behnke family’s cows, Gigi, broke the national milk production record by producing 74,650 pounds of milk in 365 days. That’s about 8,700 gallons and triple the national average for dairy cows to produce in a year. Donna Behnke confirmed to News 3 Tuesday that Gigi died in the fire.
Spilde said when crews got to the fire early Tuesday morning, the barn was fully engulfed, and the roof had already collapsed. He said about 60 cows were inside, along with hay and straw.
“Some of the cows were out in the yard in front here, and some of them we had to go in and unhook and remove them and bring them out,” Spilde said. “About 30 have been saved.”
Spilde said the farm has about 120 cows. The barn was a complete loss, and the hay and straw made it difficult to put the fire out, he said.
“The fire load, because of the hay and straw, is so intense, we’ve hauled around 120,000 gallons (of water). A normal residential fire would probably be about half of that,” Spilde said. “And we’re still going.”
While this is a tough time for the Behnke family, Spilde said the community has really stepped up.
“I was on scene at 12:12. I started dialing my cell phone and by 12:30, I had six cattle trucks here, probably 20 farmers from the community,” Spilde said. “They started calling each other, and they were here helping.”
Spilde said the farmers took the remaining cows to a nearby farm to milk. He also said neighbors have been stopping by the family’s house to bring food and help out.
“It shows that small town America is still here, and Brooklyn today was a fine example,” Spilde said.
Town Board supervisor Rex Tilley agrees.
“Brooklyn is a close community,” Tilley said. “Most of us have known each other for years and years and years. If something happens, normally we all bond together.”
The Behnke family declined to go on camera but spoke to News 3 over the phone. They said they were very thankful for all the support from the community and need prayers during this difficult time.
Spilde said investigators are working to figure out how the fire started. He expected more information to be released Wednesday.
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