Asturias will water cattle with helicopters

In Alto de la Cobertoria, in Lena, the pastures are getting drier and the farmers are thinking about dipping into winter hay. / JM PARDO

Producers warn that, if the drought continues in September and October, they will have to use the hay reserved for winter due to lack of forage

In a summer marked by constant heat waves and virulent fires in various parts of the Spanish geography, concern is growing about the drought and its effects. Although Asturias is, in principle, one of the peninsular regions least affected by high temperatures, the lack of rain is leaving high mountain watering holes without water. Many of them are already low, thus making it difficult for cattle to graze.

To reverse this situation and ensure the supply of livestock, the Principality will make helicopters from the Emergency Service available to municipalities to transport water to those pasture areas that need it most. Of course, the Minister of the Presidency, Rita Camblor, clarified this Tuesday, the procedure will have an "exceptional" character and will be subject to prior request by the consistories affected by the water shortage. Camblor gave as an example the case of Peñamellera Baja -in eastern Asturias-, where a month ago its mayor requested the services of the Principality to ensure water in the surroundings of the Picos de Europa.

What is a fact is that the drought has not caught ranchers by surprise, who have been warning of the problem for months. Now, with the troughs, water ponds and reservoirs at a minimum, they raise their voices again. For them, the horizon of the coming months appears darker than ever and many believe that they will have to use the grass saved for the winter to feed the cattle.

In the southwest, water scarcity is beginning to be a problem for ranchers. «Other years the sun warmed up, but it cooled down at night. This year not even that”, laments José Ramón García Alba, general secretary of UCA-UPA. For this reason, the fact that it rains today or tomorrow "does not solve anything" for a sector that is already preparing for the return of the "lean cows" in the coming months. "In September and October there are usually supply problems, so this year I don't want to imagine it," adds García Alba.

A "perfect storm"

Ramón Artime, president of Asaja, also believes that a "perfect storm" is preparing for Asturian livestock, sponsored both by the drought and by the rise in costs and fuel. "When you see your neighbor's beard cut...", says Artime in reference to what is happening in other areas, such as Galicia or León, where farmers are already resorting to water tanks to guarantee supply. Something that, Artime believes, could happen in our region if the weather trend of recent months continues. "In the short term, the drought can cause very serious problems," laments the president of Asaja.

The same concern is shown by Mercedes Cruzado, general secretary of COAG Asturias. Although in Grandas de Salime, where his farm is located, the watering holes are served, the drought has dried up the pastures and the farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to feed their animals. "If this continues, it will be time to use the winter silos," says Cruzado. Pulling reserves is for ranchers, the last option. However, the aridity of the land derived from climate change is leaving many of them no other option. In the coming months, the forecast is that this will get worse. "As long as it doesn't rain soon, we're going to have just enough left," Cruzado warns. The problem will come then, once the winter hay runs out.

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