Parched fields

Bloomberg on the drought:

The sweltering summer turned lush fields brown and led to shortages of fodder for the country’s millions of cows. Months of drought and heat have also caused problems across the European Union, the top milk exporter. Farmers from Ireland to Germany have had to cull herds or stop milking months early.

For the EU’s $12 billion dairy industry, parched fields have raised animal-feed costs, squeezing farmers’ profits. Ireland’s Agriculture and Food Development Authority expects dairy farms to earn half as much as last year. The feed situation could become critical and milk production may drop in the coming months, according to Arla Foods, the Nordic region’s biggest dairy company.

“In July, we brought in grass that should have been for winter feeding,” said Pat McCormack, who has 100 dairy cows in Ireland’s County Tipperary, where he’s worked for 21 years. “For a farmer with no grass, no silage, no money and kids going to college, it’s a big mental challenge.”

In Ireland, snow at the start of the year soaked fields so much that farmers began dipping into fodder reserves before the drought then hurt grass growth, causing them to use up next winter’s supplies this summer. Some have had to buy feed at extra cost with no crops of their own left to feed cattle.

Those who couldn’t afford to do that have culled herds. Since June, about 16 percent more cows than last year have been slaughtered weekly, according to Ireland’s agriculture department. In Germany, culling is up as much as 50 percent from a year earlier, farmer’s group DBV estimates.

It’s grim.

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