Cows perish in barn fire
The Sturkenboom Dairy Farm near St. Raphael’s was struck Saturday night by a devastating fire that killed 152 of the family’s 173 head of cattle.
Dale Sturkenboom, who along with his brother, Dean, and father, Gerrit, run the operation located on SDG Road 18, told The News that the blaze started at around 8:45 p.m. Saturday and burned throughout the night. Nobody was injured.
“The fire trucks were here until noon the next day,” said Mr. Sturkenboom.
The barn represented one of Glengarry’s most well-known and successful agricultural businesses, with roots stretching back six decades. “We were just getting home from supper on Saturday night, when it was starting,” he recalled. “I just parked the car and ran in and started pushing the cattle out.” Mr. Sturkenboom was “really impressed” with how quickly members of the South Glengarry Fire Department arrived on the scene, as well as the assistance he received from members of the community.
“I can’t believe the help we had from our neighbouring farmers. Everything was taken care of. They were on the phone right away, placing the cattle. It was really impressive.”
When he spoke to The News Monday morning, Mr. Sturkenboom explained the insurance adjustors were still examining the scene of the fire, so an damage estimate wasn’t available yet.
However, he said it will be difficult and costly to replace the lost cows. “Cattle prices are skyrocketing. It’s almost impossible now to buy a cow to put in your herd,” said Mr. Sturkenboom.
“There’s a demand for milk and everybody’s hanging on to their cows. Even if we do rebuild, it’s going to be a job just to put decent cattle back in the barn. It’s hard to replace so many cows, and the genetics we had... It’s a 10-year job, at least, to get that built back up... especially now, since they’re hard to buy,” he added.
Mr. Sturkenboom said a good milking cow currently goes for between $3,000 and $4,000.
The Sturkenboom farm was originally purchased by Dale’s grandparents, William and Petronella ( née van Wijk) Sturkenboom, from St. Raphael’s resident John D. McRae.
They took ownership of the property in April 1952 after arriving from Holland.
Gerrit Sturkenboom bought the farm from William (his father) in 1963, and replaced the original barn in 1984. An addition was completed in 2001.
“We’re not really sure what we’re going to do yet,” Dale said. “We’ll deal with it and do what we have to do.”
South Glengarry Fire Chief Vic Leroux, who related that the fire took about 12 hours to knock down, confirmed that insurance adjustors will be investigating the cause and origin of the fire, and that the township department will be assisting in that investigation.
The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office is also investigating.
About 55 of the township’s 125 firefighters, from the Glen Walter, Lancaster, Martintown, North Lancaster and Williamstown stations, fought the inferno. “Three generations had worked that farm and it was a big operation,” added Chief Leroux. “So it was a pretty sad day for the family and the community.”
HUGE LOSS: Nobody was injured but about 150 head of cattle perished in a Saturday evening fire that destroyed a barn on the Sturkenboom farm near St. Raphael's.
AFTERMATH: Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed a barn and almost wiped out a dairy herd Saturday night.