This is how heat affects Brandenburg cattle

Kleßen-Görne. “I was worried they would come to my place,” says Maria Mendiri, putting the water tank on the Friesacker Weide (Havelland) with her tractor. 10,000 liters of water for the animals can fit into the container, but the livestock continues to graze from a distance, without worry – despite the heat. The farmer teaches that “thirsty cows must be treated with care.” At high temperatures, the cow likes to drink 120 liters per day. Usually from 60 to 70 liters.

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Not only are the animals suffering from the current heat wave – the grass on the pasture they’re standing on is drying up, too. Mendy and her colleagues are now primarily concerned with their forage stocks. Since any grass seldom grows back and drought leads to crop failure, its winter reserves are in jeopardy.

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In 2018, farmers took drastic measures: they reduced their stocks through emergency slaughter. Maria Mundry doesn’t have to downsize her herd. Drought still worries her: “As a farmer, it’s hard to calculate if there will be enough fodder when another very dry summer comes,” the farmer explains. For many companies, drought quickly becomes a threat to their existence. “You may be able to withstand a summer or two of drought, but a third will be tough,” she says.

Rinderhof black cow near Friesack: green fodder is scarce

Mendy calls her animals by name. “Dickens, come here,” she calls, trying to get the attention of a cow. “Ricor” and “Mr. Angret” are what she calls the farmer’s wife then. But they don’t listen. Only when the small flock notices that their owner is carrying a bucket of fresh apples, do they look intently in the direction of Soggy. Cattle feed on fresh grass, alfalfa and alfalfa. From time to time there is a fruit. In the winter they get hay from the surrounding meadows.

However, a look at the pasture floor shows that there is not much green fodder left. “The grass is usually knee-high here,” Mendy says, pointing to the low green. Drought-tolerant plantain has long replaced nutritious alfalfa in the remaining green pastures. With the first cut of hay, Mendy made a provision for the winter. It is uncertain whether a second cut on dry ground is worth it.

Summer drought: the grass is dry as hay

“After the first straw was cut, not much grew,” the farmer says. “The grass is so dry that the animals practically feed on hay.” Mandy was only able to secure fodder for the winter because she had increased her space. With the use of additional spaces, the total grazing area comes to 79 hectares. And now she let her cattle eat what was left of the grass, some of it as dry as straw.

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Brandenburg farmers are forced to buy fodder

“A lot of farms are very worried,” says the farmer, climbing the fence to hand Dickens an apple. Dairy farms in particular will suffer because they have to maintain milk production for their animals through the quality of the feed. The agronomist from Haviland knows that some people have to buy extra forage because crops fail. This is also partly the case with fattening farms such as soggy farms. “Anyone who can’t stand it will have to downsize their herd,” says Mendy, who keeps about 67 animals as a marginal measure.

Few animals remained in Brandenburg

In addition, Brandenburg has a record low animal population. There are 0.4 animal units per hectare. A cow is a unit of cattle. Many farms in Brandenburg have abandoned their animals and sell the grain as feed to the few farms that still have animals.

Usually grass should be knee-high at this time of year. Ribwort plantain, a drought-resistant forage plant, is especially found on pastures.

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Although this has the advantage that livestock farms can buy feed in extremely dry conditions, the farmer believes this leads to an imbalance in the circular economy: “In organic farming, fertilizers are used by animals to feed plants again.” And with such a small number of animals per hectare, this is not possible.

Of course you can do something about the drought says Maria Mendiri, looking at the leased plot. It has many areas that are spatially separated from each other. “In grazing, you can conserve soil moisture by planting trees and hedges.” When there is shade, the evaporation is not very high. At the same time, shrubs and trees provide protection from the sun’s rays for animals. Problem: It doesn’t happen overnight. In the case of rental agreements, one also has to see if the investment is beneficial at all. The view over the pasture of her baby cows makes Maria Mendiri sad: “It’s almost a steppe,” says the farmer.

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