Animal feed scarcity, cost means many dairy cattle to be slaughtered

Holstein/Frisian dairy cows in Estonia.
Holstein/Frisian dairy cows in Estonia. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

Unfavorable conditions have not only hit Estonia's arable farming sector, but has also impacted the dairy sector so heavily that farmers in many cases only have around a half the usual amount of winter feed stocked up.

The scarcity of fodder and resulting price increases also exerts a pressure to reduce dairy herds, meaning that many dairy cows will instead be heading for the slaughterhouse, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Monday.

The Viraito agricultural collective in Jõgeva County, has been feeding its cows with silage made from this year's early harvest, while pasture growth has been poor too.

Viraito agronomist Riho Kens told AK that: "Over the course of a normal year, we would expect three-quarters of the final volume to be stored by this time, while at present we have half at best. Fortunately, we have some very nice maize, with a very decent potential for a bumper harvest."

The fodder deficit has also pushed prices sky high, AK reported.

Kens said: "The most intriguing price I have come across up to now is €50 a for a bale of hay, while for silage the price is €150 per tonne, I've heard. In a normal year, the price stands at €50-60 per tonne."

Whereas another agricultural business, Pajusi ABF, also in Jõgeva County, says it would have collected around 6,000 haybales by this time of year, this year the figure was just 410 bales.

Similarly, whereas silage amassed would total around 4,000 tonnes by now, the figure is just 1,500 tonnes this year, and even that obtained by repurposing some crops.

Lembit Paal, manager and owner at Pajusi ABF, said: "About half is still missing. Our annual feed requirement is 15,000 tonnes. We had to sacrifice rye this year and also harvested it for silage:"

This year's silage has already been fed to the livestock, Paal added, while the feed deficit and rising prices will have a knock-on effect on the price of milk – meaning that many dairy cattle will instead be destined for the slaughterhouse this year.

Meat buyers, as well as the breeders themselves, are anticipating this, Paal said,

"Since many who applied for grazing subsidies could not take their animals to the feeder before, it seems the end of August, or even September to October, they have started to liquidate their herds, which of course is an extremely sad state of affairs."

Milk prices are currently falling, but with the completion of a new dairy concern in the central Estonian town of Paide, they will start to rise again – since the demand for raw milk from dairy farmers will be increasing, Paal added.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Olev Kenk.

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