Drought might lead to widespread livestock elimination in Latvia

A large proportion of Vidzeme farmers are likely to end this harvest season with losses. The only hope is a decent rain, but even then the harvest will be smaller than in other years. Livestock farmers, too, have difficulty getting fodder due to drought, and may have to take a painful decision on the reduction of herds, Latgale regional television reported June 29.

The owner of the "Brieži" farm, Juris Cīrulis, wakes up every morning with one hope – maybe it will rain. He's been in agriculture for more than 30 years. During his working life, he has not experienced such drought. This morning, once again walking around his pea field, the hope for good yields is diminishing. He said everything possible had been done to save the harvest, but it was difficult.

“Due to drought, we have tried to feed plants through the leaves. However, this is insufficient, and for the plant to develop normally, there is a need for moisture and feeding through the roots,” said the farmer.

He knew that other farmers in Vidzeme were also experiencing such problems. Many farms will suffer losses.

The war in Ukraine, price rises and the drought have had a significant impact on Latvian farmers, who will also have to make tough decisions about their future.

Cattle are not let outside to graze, as a large proportion of grasslands are sunburnt, and livestock farmers have nowhere to get fodder and hay. Due to the lack of feed stocks in the autumn, livestock farmers may have to take a painful decision on the reduction of herds or even the removal of farms.

The owner of Rēzekne municipality's farm “Druvas”, Lauris Ikaunieks, said:

“We gathered as much as we could... It's half as much as [usual]. We're looking forward to rain, and we'll collect the rest. And then again, the decision is that, unfortunately, winter rapeseed, which is more weedy, will also be mown for fodder,” said Ikaunieks.

His herd has more than 200 cows who live on a farm and are not placed in pastures. Each season, they need about 3,000 tons of food.

Only a third of this is currently available, and it is already clear that the amount of food needed will not be recovered this year.

“Then there is, of course, the herd's reduction. I can't eliminate it [completely] many can't, but I know there are holdings who remove them completely,” said Ikaunieks.

“There's no compensation going to help, either, because there is as much feed as there is. There is still last year's feed, but it is also, of course, shrinking,” he added.

The Chairman of the Management Board of the Association of Agricultural Farms, Kaspars Melnis, said that even livestock farmers from abroad are coming to purchase the feed.

“Poles and foreigners who come because they are able to pay. And that's the next problem,” said Melnis.

This year, more actively than other years, farmers publish advertisements on social networks with grassland offers for hay supply, thereby looking to help livestock farmers throughout Latvia to cope with the drought crisis.

The Association of Livestock Farms forecasts that the real situation will be seen in the autumn, both with the provision of feed for livestock and the decisions on the elimination of animals and even whole farms.

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