Fortunately, the Ter Weele family from Markelo, Netherlands survived…
On Friday evening, 22 February, a huge explosion took place under the low-emission floor while mixing the manure
in their main barn. Twenty cows did not survive. It was a huge bang. At the neighbours, more than 200 metres away, the cups were rattling in the cupboard. The other neighbours thought that a wall had fallen over and Joan ter Weele, who was in the house himself, thought that a cupboard had fallen over.
But when the dairy farmer from Markelo looked at the screen showing images of the stable, he saw something
else. A huge cloud of smoke in the barn and in the back of the stable flames of 3 metres high. “I went straight to the stable and called 112. My father was in the stable to mix the manure. He walked back to the trigger through the flames to turn off the mixer.”
When the fire brigade arrived they knew where to go. The driver and commander of the local fire department work at the Ter Weele family contracting company. The fire brigade immediately called the contractor to empty the manure cellar.
Ten cows were taken lifeless from the manure cellar. They were drowned almost immediately. Another cow was
trapped with a claw and released from her suffering by the vet. The same thing happened the day after with
another cow who had been trapped by the thigh. In the following period, the Ter Weele family lost even more cows
to pneumonia due to manure in the lungs.
In the end, twenty cows did not survive. Two cows are still in the infirmary. “One will soon be calving and she walks
one leg out a bit due to nerve damage. The other cow, my father’s favourite cow, will no longer give milk. We kept
her and she is now in the records as beef cattle” says Joan.
Freek ter Weele himself was lucky. He had scorched hair and shorter eyebrows. But he stood on a concrete
slab stuck to the wall. Joan ter Weele does not want to think about what would have happened if he had been
somewhere else. Part of the cubicles had collapsed and dozens of concrete plants of more than 1,000 kilos were
flown into the air and then ended up in the manure cellar. “The most important thing is that my father is still here.”
The dairy farmer tells the story while his father is working outside.
“It was a traumatic experience for us. My father even went to the psychologist for it”.
On the evening of the explosion, Freek ter Weele single-handedly arranged the deceased cows.
“He wanted to do that. That was the last thing he could do for them. We are true animal lovers, we love our cows”.
Images of the men on which they stand crying appeared in the media. “And then read your responses below with
people who wonder if we are crying for the animals or for the money. I tell you: the money doesn’t matter. We are
insured for that. But we have a bond with our animals. They are very important. A milker comes to us who finds it
striking how much we hug and talk to the animals”.
The dairy farmer himself was also in a sort of shock. “I was shaking for two hours after the bang. I cleaned an ear
tag. Number 59. That was the cow that I had quoted as the last one before I left the stable. Then it just got too
much for me”. The cause of the inflammation can no longer be determined. Probably due to a spark from the tractor or the
manure robot. “We milk 75 cows. We have permits for 130 cows and we want to grow slowly in that direction. Then we need the
old stable again. That was the plan. Everything still worked in the old 2 x 7 herringbone milking parlor. We flushed
the milking machine once more every month”
On Tuesday, the new barn was put back into use for the first time after repair. “It’s too bizarre for words, but we had to put the same floor back in. But we have now installed an aeration system at the bottom of the manure cellar. If it was up to Ter Weele, the obligation for low-emission floors will go away as quickly as possible. “We are now taking an extra measure with the aeration system. That system already ensures emission reduction and can therefore be an alternative to the floor. You also have bacterial mixtures and acidification of manure as alternatives. But that is not possible in the Netherlands”.
The Ter Weele family never wants to experience an explosion again ‘At all costs’. So the dairy farmers therefore wanted an aeration system in the manure cellar and turned to Dairypower for the solution. This system pumps air through the manure several times a day. Mixing is no longer necessary, because there is always homogeneous manure in the basement. The system also reduces the emission of methane and other harmful gases and reduces odour. According to supplier DSD Stalinrichting, the nitrogen in the manure can be better used by the crop.
It is not though, a new system. In England and Ireland, it is already used by many farmers and has been on the market for at least twenty years. In the Netherlands a few dozen farmers work with it. In the Netherlands, aeration is not permitted as an alternative to a low-emission floor and this type of floor therefore remains mandatory for new stables. The suppliers want to get aeration on the list from the Regulation on ammonia and livestock farming.
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