Colombia’s cows are feeling the heat as the drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon continues to bake the countryside. One cattle-producing zone in Colombia reported that 600 of its cows have died from hunger and thirst.
With temperatures hitting 44 degrees celsius, the town of Villavieja in the southern Colombian department of Huila is one of the many municipalities stricken by the drought.
The Villavieja mayor told El Colombiano that in some areas of his municipality it hasn’t rained since May 2009. All grass has died and the skeletal cows have nothing to eat but dirt. Farmers have reported that some 600 cattle have perished due to the heat and a lack of food and water.
Farmers in the north eastern department of Boyaca are also concerned by the unusually high cattle mortality rate. There, drought combined with severe frosts has destroyed pasture lands and the cows are starving to death.
70 year old farmer Abel Wilches from Caldas, Boyaca has had four cows die from lack of food and was forced to get rid of nine more.
“El Niño has been a complete disaster for the municipality. The frosts are so severe it’s as if the devil were here,” he told El Tiempo.
Mauricio Mateus, a representative of the Caldas Association of Milk Producers, a body of over 400 milk producers in the municipality of Buenavista, said that a serious crisis of milk production is looming.
“Before the milk cooling plant was producing 13 thousand liters of milk per day, but now it’s less than 6,000,” Mateus said.
Mateus said the government’s suggestion to sell cattle feed at cost price isn’t feasible because the farmers still can’t afford to buy it. He added that the government should focus instead on providing seed for crops.
Colombia is experiencing a particularly dry period due to the El Niño phenomenon.
The director general of Colombia’s environmental agency IDEAM, Ricardo Lozano, said that the El Niño phenomenon is now predicted to extend into the second trimester of 2010.
Lozano said the rainy season may also begin later than its expected arrival time in March.
Wild fires are ravaging the Colombian countryside, with thousands of hectares destroyed.