European farmers are losing the battle against a widespread drought — herds are being sent to slaughter early due to a lack of feed.
“Our cows have been living off hay cut in June, there isn’t any grass,” says Jean-Guillaume Hannequin, a farmer in eastern France who is wondering how he will feed his animals this winter.
“In many places, even in the Massif Central, the ‘water tower’ of France, there won’t be a second cutting of hay, this is really worrying,” Patrick Benezit of the FNSEA umbrella group of French farmers’ unions told AFP.
As prices for fodder and hay climb higher, farmers are sending animals to the slaughterhouse earlier than usual.
In Sweden the grain harvest is expected to be down at least 30%.
“The feed shortage will be felt this coming winter,” Harald Svensson, chief economist for the Swedish Board of Agriculture, told AFP. “Most farmers have relied on their winter feed reserves during the drought this summer.”
The situation is arguably even worse in Germany, where officials say one in 25 farms is at risk of going out of business.
In Lower Saxony, a crucial region for growing fodder crops, the harvest is expected to be more than 40% down.
In the Netherlands, the deficit for fodder is estimated to be as much as 60%, according to the agricultural association, with the deficit for grain at 20%.
Milk production is down sharply across Europe due to the lack of hay. The situation is dire.
According to Erwin Schoepges, president of the European Milk Board, “even before this drought, production costs weren’t being covered.”
“The winter risks being catastrophic,” said another French farmer. “To complement the rations of the animals we are going to have to buy grain, the price of which went up this summer, so milk will become even more expensive to produce.
“There are going to be a massive number of farms abandoned,” the farmer warned.