WINSLOW — An owner of a Winslow farm said Tuesday that his family was dealt a severe financial blow when eight heifers that had gathered underneath a tree during a rainstorm were killed in a lightning strike.

John Fortin Jr. said large pieces of pine were blown from the tree as the lightning traveled downward toward the cows around 6 p.m. Saturday at Fortin Farm on Cushman Road.

There were 17 cows in the field at the time. A neighbor, whose house is less than 100 yards away, heard the thunder and saw the lightning hit the tree, Fortin said.

Fortin Jr. runs the farm with his father, John Fortin, and brother Jay Fortin, and the men arrived at the field within 20 minutes.

“It was quite the scene to come upon,” Fortin Jr. said.

The young females were supposed to be bred next year and the Fortins also lost the potential to increase their herd with new calves.

It can cost upward of $600 to purchase a heifer, but a farmer can sell them for $1,500 to $1,800 a head when they’re ready to breed. Each cow can produce offspring for around 10 years.

Fortin Farm is a family beef farm that has been operating since 1960. Before the family had the farm, they were selling meat products from a small store, Fortins Meats, located inside one of their homes at 459 Cushman Road. Fortin Jr. and his wife run the store.

Aria Fortin, 6, plays with cow Tuesday while walking in a grazing pasture used by her family’s Winslow-based Fortin Farm. A lightning strike killed eight of the family’s beef cows in a weekend storm. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The farm covers approximately 190 acres and includes 80 to 100 cows, depending on the time of year.

“It was unfortunate that we’ve had insurance for years, never had to use it, then we call about this and our policy doesn’t cover it,” Fortin said, explaining that they were covered for liability on the animals but not the actual loss of the animals.

Fortin said the family is heartened by the support from the community.

He said Meridith Cain, who handles the Facebook page Vassalboro Community Events And Announcements, posted that Cain and her sister-in-law are organizing a spaghetti dinner to help the Fortins. The dinner will be held in Vassalboro but other details were still being worked out.

A GoFundMe online fundraising campaign had collected more than $12,000 by Tuesday, with a goal of $15,000.

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