Initial investigations into an explosion and massive fire on Monday at a Texas Panhandle dairy farm, which killed an estimated 18,000 cows, suggest the blaze could have been started by a “machine” in a barn which overheated.

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The Washington-based Animal Welfare Institute has described the fire at Southfork Dairy Farms as “the deadliest fire” on a cattle farm since it started recording barn fires in 2013.

Castro County Sheriff's Office in Texas said it responded together with Dimmitt, Hart and Nazareth Fire Departments to an explosion and fire at the Southfork Dairy Farms which is located 11 miles southeast of Dimmitt.

The farm is understood to have been a relatively new enterprise and is not yet a year in business.

When emergency crews arrived at the farm they determined that one individual was trapped inside but crews were able to free them from the building and they were flown to the UMC Hospital in Lubbock.

The farm has a total of 60 employees and Sal Rivera, sheriff of Castro County, said it was fortunate that there were not further injuries.

According to the sheriff's office initial inquiries indicate that insulation in the barn caught fire, followed by methane which then resulted in an explosion.

At the time the fire broke out the farm was moving a large number of cows to a milking area. The sheriff's office has confirmed that only a small number cattle survived and there are a number which were very badly injured and may not survive.

It is understood that the cattle that survived the blast have been moved from the farm to another location just north of Southfork Dairy Farm.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Amarillo Region is currently providing support to the farm owner.

A major clean up operation is now underway at the farm and the Texas State Fire Marshall's Office is leading the investigation into the cause of the explosion and fire.