Drought prompts livestock slaughter in lower Alentejo

Farmers faced with no pasture; high costs of feed

Without any pasture for cattle due to drought and with feed and straw at high prices, cattle farmers in Baixo Alentejo are selling animals at auctions or direct to slaughterhouses.

Lusa news agency has been hearing from farmers in ACOS (the association of southern farmers, in Beja) who are drastically cutting back on the size of their herds, in the hope they can somehow ‘muddle through’ this latest crisis.

Manuel Machado Godinho, for example, used to have around 60 head of cattle. He was in Beja this weekend selling 21 young animals. He has reached the point he has only 10 adult animals left on the farm, “due to the difficulties caused by the drought (…) I am holding on as best I can”, he said – explaining that he has only enough feed right now to feed his animals for four months.

Another farmer, Leonel Cantinho, told the State news agency bleakly:  “There is no pasture; straw is expensive and difficult to find”. To add to the nightmare, the prices of animals (because of the expenses in keeping them) are falling.

José Rodrigues, a colleague also selling animals at the weekend auction, predicts “the end of extensive livestock farming” in southern Portugal. Unless there is more in the way of ‘help’ from the European Community, he can see no other prospect.

“Thousands of heads of cattle are being slaughtered, and many more are going to be slaughtered because there are no conditions for them to survive”, he said.

ACOS vice-president Miguel Madeira actually told Lusa that there was such a demand by farmers to place their animals in the auction that there was even “a waiting list” of cattle, which will now have to wait for the next auction.

Elsewhere in the district, Cármen Lampreia, a manager of the Litoral Alentejano Slaughterhouse in Odemira, admitted that from June, she expects the abattoir “will have a lot of slaughtering, namely of cattle and sheep”. She stressed that the increase in demand is mainly for what in the sector are known as ‘scrap animals’: “older animals that would very possibly calve this year” but are nonetheless coming up for slaughter.

Source material: LUSA