An eastern New York dairy farmer shot and killed 51 cows before taking his own life on Thursday. 

The farmer was identified as 59-year-old Dean Pierson, of Copake, N.Y.  His body was located inside a cow barn.

He left no suicide note, his wife told the Albany Times Union. She said her husband had not been acting unusual of late.

A press release from the state police said her husband had been reportedly despondent over recent personal issues. But, other than that, there were few clues what prompted the incident.

"No one knows why for sure," his wife told the Times Union.

On Friday, neighboring farmers used a backhoe and bulldozer to bury the dead animals.

Here are more details from the Albany Times Union.

Source: Albany Times Union and The Associated Press

Some might speculate that the farmer, Dean Pierson, ended his life because of the poor financial situation facing many in the dairy industry. Certainly, the past year has been horrendous for dairy farmers across the country. There have been several reported suicides tied to this situation.

We’ll never know the exact reason why Mr. Pierson chose to end his life. He left no explanation, no suicide note.

We do know that dairy farmers need mental-health care and counseling services just as much as anyone in society — perhaps more, given the financial stress they are under these days.

The number of calls coming into rural crisis hotlines has gone up considerably, points out Mike Rosmann, executive director of Agriwellness, Inc., in Harlan, Iowa, which provides training and funding for hotlines in seven states. During the past 18 months, which roughly coincides with the downturn in milk prices, the number of calls coming into the Wisconsin hotline is up 40 percent compared to the number before that, he says. “The No. 1 reason for calling the hotline is economic stress,” he adds.

Rosmann, a clinical psychologist, says he has dealt with more troubled dairy farmers in his private practice than he ever has before.

We don’t know the exact circumstances behind the suicide last week in New York state. But anytime a suicide like this occurs, it is symptomatic of a larger problem. Indeed, many people are hurting these days. – Tom Quaife, editor