Drought-induced slaughters begin

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Amidst fears it will set off a shortage of milk and dairy products, farmers lacking enough food for their cattle have started slaughtering some of their animals. The drought that’s left fields dry and without nutrients for cattle feed has spurred the worst agricultural crisis in Norway for more than 70 years. 

Cattle released for open grazing this summer are better off than those still on farms, where farmers are running out of hay to feed them. Emergency slaughtering has begun. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Nortura, the national farmers’ cooperative for meat and poultry, called in many of its butchers from summer holidays this week. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has reported that Norway currently lacks feed for around 12,000 cattle and that number can grow.

The drought this spring and summer had raised the prospect that slaughtering will be necessary for farmers unable to feed their livestock. Concerns have risen, though, that the slaughtering may not only flood the market with meat but also result in a serious milk crisis. “The butter crisis of 2011 (when Norway’s dairy cooperative Tine miscalculated the market and had too little milk and cream for butter) will be nothing compared to this,” Christian Anton Smedhaug of Agri Analyse told P4 Nyhetene. “Much of Northern Europe is hit by drought, and that can make it difficult to get enough fresh milk and milk products.”

Lars Petter Bartnes, leader of the national farmers’ organization Norges Bondelaget, downplayed the risk of another milk or butter shortage in Norway, which raised questions about the country’s strict agricultural regulations in place to protect farmrs. “I don’t think that will happen,” Bartnes told news bureau NTB. “Tine (the dairy coop embarrassed by the butter shortages in both 2011 and 2012) reports that mild deliveries are stable and in line with prognoses. And I’m certain that milking cows will absolutely be the last animals any farmer will slaughter.”

‘Really in despair’
Desperate farmers in the southern part of the country were appealing on Thursday to farmers in Northern Norway, which had lots of rain in May and June. Some are able to ship bales of hay from their farms to help out.

“They’re really in despair,” Trond Bjørkås, deputy leader of Nordland County’s chapter of Bondelaget, told NRK. He has 200 of his own cattle to feed now and through the winter, but hopes to be able to help colleagues in need.

Farmers will also be able to import cattlefeed from July 13 after state officials removed all import duties that also are normally in place to protect farmers from foreign competition. Farmers are also appealing to landowners to let them mow any fields that otherwise are not cultivated.

“This is clearly a demanding situation,” Bartnes told NTB. “If we could just get three to four days with train, a lot can change.”

It was raining in the Oslo area Thursday afternoon and, most importantly, in the hills and forests around the capital. That may help, also to fend off forest fires that were burning all over Southern Norway after lightning and thunder that preceded the rain. Weather forecasters, however, were predicting more warm and dry weather in the weeks ahead.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund