Farmers raise alarm over cattle feed shortage in Latvia

Due to the long drought, farmers have problems getting enough hay and cattle feed. In many places, yields have fallen more than by half, and the prices for hay rolls have climbed at least three times. Farmers in Latgale estimate there will be less milk and some cows might also have to be eliminated, Latvian Radio reported on July 28.

At least 10-12 kilograms of hay a day are needed to feed a cow. There are around 200 kilograms in one hay roll. This means that one roll is good for three weeks. And this year, such a roll is almost gold, because, first of all, it is much more difficult to collect hay than other years, said Inese Magdalenoka, crop advisor for the Latvian Rural Consulting and Education Center in Preiļi.

"If 15 rolls were harvested from one hectare of permanent grassland last year, but only 5 rolls are harvested this year, then that is the indicator. At least 3 hectares must be mowed to prepare what could be prepared from one hectare last year. It's not a good year for livestock."

The problem is the unfavorable weather conditions.

“We had two woes this year. We had spring floods in the Daugava, which were not predictable at all, and then the second one was a drought in Latgale near the banks of Daugava,” Magdalenoka said.

Roberts Jonāns, the owner of the farm "Stārķi" in Svente parish, said:

"This year is very special, very complicated. There was very little grass as such, with the first mow. For the second mow, it was even worse. [..] It's the most difficult for farms with cattle.  Since there is no grass, there are no pastures. The meadows that are meant for hay have to be given to the cows for grass, and there is nothing to mow at all. It's a tough year."

There are more than 150 dairy cows on the “Stārķi” farm. They are kept in the barn and are currently fed with the green feed that was collected last year.

“We are now feeding that feed prepared in 2022. There will be a problem in 2024. Because we are preparing feed for 2024 in the summer of 2023. This year we mowed everything we could, and we'll try the third time. Of course, these will be different fuel costs, and the costs of feeding will be very different, but they do not want to eliminate the animals. Everything will depend on what we will be able to produce by the end of the year,” Jonāns said.

Unfortunately, not all livestock farmers will be able to harvest the necessary quantities of feed this year, or buy it. If last year a hay roll in Latgale could be purchased for €5, €10 or €20, then this year prices have climbed to €30 to €40 per roll. There will be holdings which will have to part from the animals, Magdalenoka said.

In order to ease the situation a little, the association of Latgale farmers has called on the government to announce an emergency. Farmers in the rest of Latvia also have asked for this, but there has not yet been extensive support of the idea.

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