GREAT FALLS – Lightning is the primary cause of fires during the summer wildfire season.
But one impact the deadly phenomenon has deals with something we don’t always think about during severe weather- livestock.
People can usually enjoy lightning’s beauty from a safe distance or from the safety of shelter.
It isn’t always so easy to find sufficient cover for livestock that live in open ranges.
IX Ranch Vice President Richard Roth owns more than 120,000 acres of ranch land and knows the dangers lightning can pose to his livestock.
“They congregate under structures such as trees, or they congregate around water or even a fence, because it is an area where they can somewhat find shelter.”
This makes lightning more deadly, because just one bolt could take out numerous amounts of livestock at once.
Sometimes cattle are the tallest structures in an open field – “… [which means] they’re more susceptible to a lightning strike,” Roth says.
The owner of Klaboe Livestock posted pictures on Facebook of the damage a June storm caused on the Miles City ranch.
Fifteen sheep were killed after one lightning bolt struck a fence they were huddled around..
Just one lightning strike can cost ranchers tens of thousands of dollars in losses.
Roth says mid-aged cattle usually run between $800 and $1,200, so even one cow that is killed can be expensive.
The death of livestock is not just a financial loss for ranchers like Roth.
“I don’t think people often understand. Even in a big place they’re like, ‘Oh, you lost one cow or 30.’ I’d have to say that ranchers in general and farmers – [for] anyone who owns livestock- it’s an emotional loss. They become kind of your children.”
Reporting by Elizabeth Copeland for MTN News