Drought forces dairy and beef farmers to slaughter or sell animals

The effects of the drought spread like an oil slick and have a direct impact on livestock activity. The combination of lack of rainfall, higher prices for inputs such as electricity and, above all, feed and other raw materials for animal feed is leading many dairy and beef producers throughout Spain to sell or slaughter animals to maintain the profitability of their farms. A phenomenon that is not yet reflected in official statistics. According to the latest cattle slaughter survey, between January and June in cattle (cows and bulls) it registers an increase of 6.83% compared to the same period in 2021 compared to 1.11% more in pigs. In any case, a possible reduction in the cattle herd can end up compromising activities such as caring for the mountains in the case of extensive cattle ranching. "I have 200 fewer animals on the farm due to the drought," says Juan Manuel Sánchez de la Mano in conversation with ABC, who has also been forced to sell calves without reaching their maximum yield. For this farmer from the Madrid town of El Molar, last August 13 was an unpleasant surprise: "There was not enough water in the boreholes we have underground," he says, referring to one of the underground wells that give the cattle a drink. between 600 and 650 calves for fattening, which they have on the farm shared with their brothers along with two other workers. In charge of him, he also has 50 cows dedicated to meat production, which during the year graze in the municipal meadow. In both cases they have noticed the increase in animal feed prices. "Straw has become more expensive by more than 42% and oat fodder has risen by 50%," says Sánchez, who is also not compensated by the slight rise in the price of meat - by 1 or 1.20 euros per kg - and puts its hopes in Christmas consumption. Related News standard Yes The footprint of the drought in the countryside: 8,000 million euros in losses and crops under minimum conditions Carlos Manso Chicote Agricultural organizations such as Asaja and COAG warn of losses of between 25 and 80% in crops such as cereals, wine or olive oil With figures from April, the General Index of Prices paid for agricultural goods and services of the Ministry of Agriculture already estimated that the prices of feed for livestock had skyrocketed by 37.71% in the 12 months previous. But, what is the weight of animal feed in Spain? According to data collected by the Spanish Confederation of Manufacturers of Compound Feed for Animals (Cesfac) in 2020, 37.68 million tons of feed were produced. This also includes that destined for pets, horses and fish, among others. If we focus on livestock feed (pigs, cattle, sheep/goats and poultry), the figure drops to 35.29 million tons. This places it among the main producers in the world, although giants such as China and the United States are far behind, although ahead of Germany or Russia. Similarly, Spain happens to have the largest industrial production in the European Union (EU) in compound feed (bovine, pig, poultry and others) with 25.56 million tons (2021). They are followed by Germany (2.21 million) and France (20.60 million tons). From Cesfac, its general director Jorge de Saja, recognizes the use of animal sacrifice, especially among dairy cattle and sheep producers. However, he clarifies that "the sector has been losing money for almost 4 years and in a difficult situation." In his opinion, "the good price of old meat (that which comes from females over 5 years of age) driven by the increase in demand from the hotel industry" has encouraged dairy producers to seek this route of more cost effectiveness. In this sense, he does not rule out that there are variations in the cabins of some farms. De Saja sends a message of calm about the availability of raw material: "Our feed production forecasts prior to the summer are maintained, more or less repeating what was produced in 2020," says the general director of Cesfac. Change of life The current drought has pushed Carles Comorera, owner of an organic farm with several hundred fattening calves in Martorell (Barcelona), to put an end to 100 years of family tradition as milk producers. «Only last year we registered a 10% loss, about 150,000 euros. and 200,000 euros in 2020”, explains this farmer who once had 470 cows and 8 workers in his charge, of whom 6 had to be fired. "Four of them already have new contracts and two are receiving a benefit," he says. At better prices of origin in milk, fewer cows It's the world upside down. In a context in which the average price of milk at origin - the one received by the farmer - has gone from 0.37 euros/liter in January to 0.46 euros/liter in July, according to data from Agriculture, the herd of dairy cows it is decreasing. “Whenever the price of milk went up, the number of animals increased, as well as production. However, now it is happening the other way around”, comments UPA Livestock Secretary Román Santalla sadly. The representative of this agrarian organization slips a reason: the high production costs (energy, feed, ...). And he uses himself as an example: "In my case, I have always paid a maximum of 700 euros for electricity per month, this month 3,005 euros," he says. Like his counterpart from Madrid, raw materials for animal feed such as soybeans have skyrocketed up to 100%. Have you received any kind of support? Comorera acknowledges that "there is aid at the European and regional level" to help the transition to organic. "Together with a good CAP we come close to covering expenses", concludes this Catalan farmer.

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