Drought Impacting Cattle Producers Around the Globe

Beef and dairy producers in Australia, across Europe and even in North America have all been in short supply of water, forcing some to cull cattle. ( freeimages.com )

Cattle raisers around the world are struggling with drought and international media headlines are showing that farmers and ranchers are handling the water shortages differently.

The Swiss army delivered water to cows grazing the foothills of the Alps in Switzerland during a recent heatwave with helicopters. An estimated 40,000 cows graze the pastures in Vaud canton (state) in western Switzerland and need up to 40 gallons of water each.

“The situation is very worrying because Switzerland has not known a drought like that ... since 1921,” says Philippe Leuba, head of economy and sport for Vaud.

Farmers in Finland have a short supply of feed and forage because of a dry summer forcing some dairy farmers to consider selling cows.

“We will have to start eliminating them, one by one. This morning I found myself looking at the lists with that in mind. There's no hay anywhere around here, and we don't have the money to buy it,” says Finish dairy farm owner Seija Kairinen.

Germany is considering a 1 billion euro ($1.17 billion) aid program that would primarily benefit livestock producer impacted by drought.

“In many regions we are suffering from a massive shortage of animal feed,” says German agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner.

The widespread drought in Europe has forced a number of cattle to be culled or slaughtered early, leaving a glut of beef in cold storage. For instance, in Ireland cattle slaughter is up 11% from last year and 18% from 2016.

“Additional cattle are coming onto the market throughout Europe, which is experiencing the same drought conditions as Ireland – resulting in more beef than the market can contend with right at this moment,” says Cormac Healy, senior director with Meat Industry Ireland.

The country probably suffering the worst drought is Australia. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has reported that the eastern half of the country is going through its worst drought since 1965.

Dry conditions have spurred the federal government to pay individual farmers 12,000 Australian dollars ($8,870) in emergency funding. The total drought aid comes to 576 million Australian dollars ($417 million). Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says his countrymen must realize Australia is the “land of drought and flooding rains.”

During a jarring interview with New South Wales dairy farmer Jason Maloney told BBC News, “It’s gotten to the point where it’s cheaper to shoot your cows than it is to feed them.”

While those stories from Australia are difficult to grasp, a viral drone video shared by Burrabogie Livestock and Contracting gives viewers a glimpse of what it is like caring for cattle and sheep in New South Wales.

The video shows approximately 1,200 head of cattle waiting for their chance to get a drink. The video has gone viral with nearly 180,000 views on the original video and several versions being shared by news outlets gaining thousands more.

“Rivers were too low to water in as the cattle would get bogged and mills had stopped pumping as the water table had dropped,” says Amber Wright from Burrabogie Livestock and Contracting.

More images of the drought in Australia can be seen in a drone photo expose from Reuters.

Closer to home drought has led to USDA declaring disaster status for 36 counties, the Governor of Kansas has opened up water for emergency use and Texas ranchers are struggling with a hay shortage.

To the north in Canadian farmers are dealing with moderate drought conditions in five western provinces.

North of Winnipeg, Manitoba conditions are getting dire with a severe drought setting in according to the Government of Canada.

“There are folks up there that are talking about liquidating, simply because there is no feed available to them,” says Tom Teichroeb, interim president of the Manitoba Beef Producers. “The right word is pathetic.”

A map view of drought conditions across the globe can be accessed through data accumulated using the Standardized Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index.

To see current drought conditions in the U.S. view the following map from the Drought Monitor:


20180814 usdm