The Putaendo Valley, a common cattle grave due to drought in Chile

Hundreds of cows, horses and sheep die of thirst and starvation due to the drought that ravages the valley of Putaendo, in the center of Chile, whose lands have become an immense mass grave of animals before the resignation of livestock farmers, who do not They can do nothing but bury them.

The rains have been reduced by more than 70% in this valley of the Valparaíso region, an area declared by the Government in a state of catastrophe due to drought and where the northern desert of Chile moves, leaving consequences that are already visible to the naked eye.

The carcasses of animals have stopped being a novelty in the plains and hills of the place and the flies and scavengers are the only ones that take advantage of the drought.

Farmers in the area, such as Fernando Enriquez, a former owner of almost 200 head of cattle and more than a dozen horses, have mass graves in their land to bury their dead animals.

"You can't do anything else," Enriquez told Efe about a gig with 15 cows and 3 mares.

"It has no return, in the field there is no water left, let alone the grass, there is nothing. It is not possible and we are very bad. We have no return," said the 82-year-old cattle rancher.

The few remaining cows are famished and chew dry branches and even stones. Their hips and ribs are noticed, their hair falls out and they don't generate milk to feed their calves, who barely have the strength to stand up.

"It is hunger, hunger is that it kills them no more. That issue that I give them is for them to fill something with the guatita (belly). They are waste that they sell, there is nothing else to do anymore," he said discouraged.

Enriquez recalled that a good cow sold it at almost one dollar a kilo and could get about 500 dollars for a good copy, but now, his animals, which are around 180 kilos when they had to weigh more than double, not even sell them .

The hills and streams were the source of food for the small producers of Putaendo, who released the animals so that they returned well fed at the end of the summer.

However, now they are released to die to their fate, knowing that there is no food but aware that if they die on their properties they have to bear the costs of burying the bodies.

This is done by another neighbor in the area, Luis Manzano, 59, who still has some of his cows on his farm, although they barely feed or drink the necessary water.

Manzano takes care of the few heads of cattle that he believes can save the others, as almost all farmers in the area have done, he released them on the hills, where he traditionally grazed from winter to summer (austral) because the grass was more that enough.

"One more year we get caught dry and here the livestock dies all," he told Efe, watching with sorrow how the work of a lifetime slips through his hands without being able to do anything.

The central area and part of northern Chile, including the metropolitan region of Santiago, faces in 2019 its largest rainfall deficit of the last 60 years, which according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture affects about 34,000 animals in the total affected regions , from Atacama to Maule.

The phenomenon has worsened in the last 10 years, with a decrease in rainfall by approximately 38% than the historical average.

The patience in which the climatic conditions change was exhausted long ago, when the Putaendo river began to look more like a desert of stones and in the high ravines and surrounding cliffs the grass disappeared to give way to the aridity of the sand and some trees of thorns that do not serve as food for animals.

Goats, which sow the hills of skeletons and dry skins, are another example of this.

Walter Moreno, 43, recognized Efe that the goats in his pen are one night away from death and barely eat the leftovers he gets from local fruit and vegetable fairs.

His father, Benito Moreno, already has only 20 specimens on his land in the middle of the ravines, and having seen similar situations in his 75 years of life confirms that the current drought is devastating for cattle.

Only in the vicinity of its land, a dozen skeletons of goats lie just meters from what was a small flow that supplied the area with water.

A reality of abundance that neither farmers nor goats consider that it will be repeated in the future and they see it almost impossible for animals to be able to be the livelihoods of the families of the Putaendo Valley.

"They take (the animals) there (to the hills), but in the case of this year it is a bit of luck, the one that is saved well and the one that dies, because we are prepared. They may all die and here in April, when we lower them, we may go down with nothing, "says Don Luis resigned.

. (tagsToTranslate) valley (t) Putaendo (t) cattle (t) drought (t) Chile

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