Drought may force cattle slaughter

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High temperatures and a lack of rain in Southern Norway have left farmers claiming they’ll have to slaughter cattle this fall. The reason: There won’t be enough hay to feed their livestock through the winter.

Cattle like these suddenly don’t have enough hay to see them through the winter. Some may need to be slaughtered this fall because of the drought. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The farmers’ initial harvest of grass grown for cattle feed amounts to just 40 percent of normal supplies, after the first major mow this season.

Fields making up most of the arable land in Norway are so dry now that they won’t yield much more harvest at all. Anders Hole Fyksen, a farmer in Gausdal in Oppland County, says the grass has simply stopped growing because of the lack of water.

“This is dramatic, and it will create production problems for years ahead if we have to let go of animals we should have been able to keep,” Fyksen told state broadcaster NRK.

The drought is creating the biggest cattle feed crisis in Norwegian agriculture for many decades. Most farmers, who don’t have irrigation systems, view slaughtering this fall as the only solution.

“The lack of cattle feed means that I can’t sell my animals or take care of them myself,” another farmer, Ståle Hansen, told NRK. “That means I’ll have to send good animals to the slaughterhouse.”

Agriculture Minister Jon Georg Dale said the state is evaluating options to import hay from other countries. “If it’s possible, then we’ll see how fast we can lower tariffs on the imports (which normally keeps them out of the Norwegian market to protect Norwegian farmers),” Dale told NRK. Dale said his ministry wasn’t likely to expand compensation programs for poor harvests, though, as a result of the extraordinary weather conditions.

Meanwhile, even many of those now on summer holidays in Norway are hoping for rain and seeking shade in the meantime. Water restrictions remain in place in many areas including Oslo, where there’s a total ban on watering lawns. Most have turned yellow and brown.

NRK also reported this week that the underground water table is falling as are water levels in dams around the country. Electricity prices are thus expected to climb because of Norway’s vast use of hydroelectric power.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund