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Posts Tagged ‘Feed Crisis’

No Cash, No Feed: Crisis Hits SW Victoria Herd

Posted by feww on July 7, 2013

Hundreds of dairy cows and beef cattle in SW Victoria, Australia are starving to death

“It really comes down to a very fine balancing act between the bank (not giving us any more loans to buy feed) and keeping the cows alive; it’s the toughest, most heartbreaking time we’ve ever faced,” said dairy farmer Scott Gapes.
dying cattle
This photo of dying cattle was sent to The Weekend Australian by Dr Mike Hamblin. Source: The Australian

“I see animals suffering from malnutrition and farmers distressed by their financial situation (that) makes it impossible to feed them,” wrote Dr Hamblin, local veterinarian and dairy consultant.

“Snaps from two farms I visited last week (are attached). These animals are too weak to stand. Owners (one male and one female) were crying openly at their stock starving (but) are financially powerless to correct.

The Weekend Australian was later asked by Dr Hamblin not to publish the distressing photos for fear they would spark an urban backlash.

“And there is worse to come; June is a record dry (month) and feed (to buy) is now so scarce and expensive; what actions do we take; where will it all end?” Hamblin said.

Cows are dying and farmers face ruin as fodder runs out

by: Sue Neales, Rural reporter
From: The Australian
July 06, 2013

Hundreds of dairy cows and beef cattle in southwest Victoria are starving, weak and at risk of death this weekend.

Desperate dairy farmers in the Colac, Camperdown, Warrnambool and Koroit region have no grass in their paddocks and no hay in their sheds to feed their cattle after the driest nine months and hottest summer on record, The Australian reports.

Dairy farmers already struggling with unsustainable debts, low milk prices and falling land values and farm equity are having to choose between putting food on their family’s kitchen table or feeding the milking herd.

Prices for hay and stock grain have quadrupled since the start of the year, as more farmers try to buy in hay, silage, wheat, straw and even almond husks to feed their hungry cows. Top-quality lucerne hay is impossible to source.

As winter arrives, dozens of cows have died in their paddocks from complications linked to starvation and malnutrition. Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber has branded it an animal welfare crisis that will only get worse.

Mr Barber accused the Victorian government, headed by former vet, western Victorian local MP and Liberal Premier Denis Napthine, of keeping quiet about the scale of the impending starving cattle disaster because of concerns about a public outcry.

The Midfield meatworks at Warrnambool is overflowing with old and weak dairy cows that can no longer be fed, with a two-week waiting list to book in cows for slaughter. The pet food processor at Camperdown, who is licensed to pick up carcasses from the paddock, has also been inundated with calls.

Last week, one dairy farmer in Simpson, south of Colac, shot 120 of his dairy cows in the paddock because they were too weak to milk or survive the trip to the knackery to be turned into hamburger mince.

The Victorian Department of Primary Industries is believed to be considering laying charges of animal cruelty against some farmers whose stock have died of starvation.

Winslow dairy farmer Scott Gapes has lost 10 pregnant cows that were so weak they could not stand and developed pregnancy toxaemia. Several others came back into the milking shed after calving “so skinny” that Mr Gapes put them out of their misery.

“It really comes down to a very fine balancing act between the bank (not giving us any more loans to buy feed) and keeping the cows alive; it’s the toughest, most heartbreaking time we’ve ever faced,” Mr Gapes said.

Local veterinarian and dairy consultant Mike Hamblin wrote two weeks ago to state and federal politicians appealing for help to prevent a desperate situation getting even worse.

His letter, followed up by meetings in Canberra with former treasurer Wayne Swan and former agriculture minister Joe Ludwig, was accompanied by stark photos he had taken of dying and starving dairy cows looking like bags of bones.

“I see animals suffering from malnutrition and farmers distressed by their financial situation (that) makes it impossible to feed them,” Dr Hamblin wrote.

“Snaps from two farms I visited last week (are attached). These animals are too weak to stand. Owners (one male and one female) were crying openly at their stock starving (but) are financially powerless to correct.

“And there is worse to come; June is a record dry (month) and feed (to buy) is now so scarce and expensive; what actions do we take; where will it all end?”

In western Victoria, it is too cold until about the third week in September at the earliest for paddocks to start growing grass again. “There is worse to come; June is a record dry (month) and feed (to buy) is now so scarce and expensive. What actions do we take? Where will it all end?” Hamblin says.

Hamblin tells The Weekend Australian it is the worst and driest season he has seen in western Victoria in his nearly 40 years there, with less than half the usual rainfall since last August, a devastatingly hot summer and little spring or autumn grass growth.

After The Weekend Australian was sent his despairing email with a request from the chairman of the Rural Debt working group, Rowell Walton, to “help get the message out”, Dr Hamblin asked the paper not to publish the distressing photographs for fear they would spark an urban backlash.

Victorian Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said the state government was well aware that some livestock were starving in the region because financially stressed farmers could not afford to feed them enough.

“We all knew there was this risk of this happening when there wasn’t an early autumn (rain) break,” Mr Walsh said.

He said the Department of Primary Industries was monitoring the situation and working with farmers. “If we think there is a risk (their cattle are so weak they might die), the preferred outcome is to transport them to an abattoir or knackery rather than (let them die on the farm).”

Read more at The Australian.

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