If bernd rottmann wants to feed his 80 dairy cows, he has to buy in extra fodder. The reserves are not enough. No more green fodder from the meadows. His farm in robfeld is exemplary for the situation of farmers in coburg county. The drought hits everyone.
Farms that produce according to the EU's organic standards are no exception, emphasizes martin flohrschutz, head of the bavarian farmers' association (BBV) in coburg. Verena kunick can only confirm that. Your farm with 140 dairy cows is an organic farm. "We normally add green fodder in summer. That's not nearly enough this year. We are feeding silage reserves from 2016 and 2017", she says.
It was the extremely dry year of 2003 that prompted farmers to increase their stocks. Should extreme years become more frequent, even more stocks would have to be built up in good harvest years. "At the moment, no one is investing because there is a new investment ordinance with a lot still up in the air. No one risks building a silo or a septic tank", adds hans rebelein, the BBV's managing director in coburg.
When bernd rottmann takes stock, he assumes losses of around 30 percent in cereals – and he was still lucky that he was able to sow everything last fall. Others of his colleagues who had to spread summer cereals in the spring fared even worse. For rapeseed, rottmann expects losses of more than 30 percent; for corn, he expects yields to drop by more than 40 percent.
A land rain could help
"There had to be more than 50 liters of rain per square meter if anything was to be salvaged from the corn", says martin flohrschutz. In a field near rossfeld, little linus shuttered a cob. This shows that grain formation stops at about two-thirds of the cob. Together with the already meager crops, this will lead to high losses on this field. How high the losses will be varies from region to region and also depends on how lucky the farmer was when sowing the crop. But there will be losses across the board.
Martin flohrschutz does not want to make generalizations. "The weather is part of our business, the harvests are sometimes bigger and sometimes smaller, that has always been the case", he says. A 20 percent reduction in yields is something you have to be able to cope with. But this year the situation is different in many respects.
Rapeseed and cereals are almost completely harvested. "Yield losses of over 25 percent on average in the county are the rule", explains hans rebelein. However, there were also "dramatic losses" of over 60 percent occurred.
The stock is dwindling
There are still stocks, thanks to year-round silage feeding. But there is no more ground fodder for a long time. Even on the kunicks' organic farm, the first cut in the meadows was still productive. The second cut was meager. There is no third party yet. Last year, most farmers suffered five.
The national situation with its focus on the north is also having an impact on the region. Because cattle are already being slaughtered in the north due to a lack of fodder, beef is coming onto the market. Pigs are hardly in demand, the prices for pork are plummeting. At the same time, feed costs are rising because pig farmers are having to buy more. For quite a few farms, the situation is threatening their existence.
When it comes to government aid, farmers' representatives emphasize two things. First: "we don't want to receive money as a gift. It's about cheap loans to bridge the emergency situation. That has to be paid back", says district farmer heidi bauersachs. Second: "it's not about money by the bucketload principle. Only those who have been hit hard should receive help", says martin flohrschutz.
With stocks depleted this year and unable to be replaced, farmers are looking to the future with concern. Should the winter be dry and another year like this one possibly follow, animals will also have to be slaughtered in the coburg region because the feed is no longer sufficient – not even on organic farms.