Drought in the fields – an emergency measure: we don’t run out of animal food – News


Due to drought, cattle devoured their food reserves for the winter. Several cantons such as Friborg, Neuchâtel and Jura interact and open more pastures for animals.

Drought affects agriculture. Because of the long heat period, some pastures have dried up. Accordingly, cows, goats and sheep lack sufficient fodder. In addition, it is too hot for the animals outside in the fields. “We weren’t able to go out to the pasture with them all day for about a month,” says Pascal Tofel, director of the Agricultural Institute of Canton Fribourg in Grangenieu.

This means that the animals are more indoors and will eat food reserves such as hay intended for the winter. “The situation is getting worse.”


Some pastures are very dry – the animals don’t have much grass to eat.

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According to the Federal Office of Agriculture at the request of the SRF, a total of about ten cantons have taken immediate measures appropriate to the relief of animals and their farms. So far, this has been communicated by the cantons of Maitland and the Jura arc – for example by the cantons of Friborg, Neuchâtel or the Jura.

Permission from the Federal Office of Agriculture

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Simplifications in the requirements for direct payment programs approved by the canton of Friborg, for example, are based on Article 106 of the Direct Payments Act.

This article makes it possible to consider force majeure. Last week, the Federal Office of Agriculture allowed the cantons to enact corresponding deviations not only at the regional level, but at the cantonal level. The reason is the exceptional drought that deviates significantly from the long-term averages.

In the affected cantons, animals are now allowed to graze on pastures that are not normally used at this time. This is an “emergency measure,” the department of agriculture in the canton of Friborg, for example, wrote.

Conflicting goals: biodiversity

In concrete terms, this means that due to drought, livestock can now also graze on extensive and less-used meadows – as well as on river meadows and grassy borders adjacent to hedges. In normal years, these areas may only be used for livestock from September 1, according to the Direct Payments Regulation. Until then, these meadows are intended to enhance biodiversity, that is, to maintain the diversity of plants and animals.

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An example of a widely used meadow. Its purpose is biodiversity.

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“If we used to go to these meadows with animals, there’s a risk that we’re endangering certain species,” Tufel says. But you have to put that in perspective: “Everything this year is prior, including biodiversity.”

More relief

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Depending on the canton, certain approval criteria apply. In the canton of Jura, for example, this “exceptional measure” applies only to operations throughout the year.

However, in the canton of Neuchâtel, summer farms are now allowed to use bran such as hay or straw to treat deficiencies caused by poor weed growth. This is to prevent the animals from having to bring them in from the Alps early.

In the canton of Friborg, the regulations for outdoor exercise in case of nutritional deficiency are also relaxed. Animals are allowed to do a certain part of their exercise in the exercise yard instead of on the pasture. The percentage of pasture fodder can be reduced.

Therefore, most of the ecologically valuable plant species in these areas have already completed their reproductive cycle. According to the canton of Neuchâtel, biodiversity does not hurt if the animals graze there earlier. “That’s why it’s not so bad,” adds Pascal Tofel from Freiburg.

Measures do not save the entire season

The alternative is to import feed. “But all of Switzerland and Europe have the same problem,” says Tofel. So this is not salvation. “Even with these measures, we will not save the entire season.”

She badly needs rain, otherwise there will be serious problems in the fall.

Tofel cannot say whether these measures will help so that farmers do not have to use their reserves of forage for the winter: “It needs rains in August and September so that farmers can form forage reserves for the winter, otherwise there will be serious problems in the fall. . »

If the farms have very little fodder, in the worst case, different farms will have to reduce the number of animals. “That means they have to produce less milk or meat.” It’s not far away yet, but the danger in the coming fall and winter is there.

Measures in agriculture

The federal government made such measures possible in 2018 due to the drought. However, the current measures will only apply as long as the exceptional situation persists.

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