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Andres Severec, a livestock producer from San Francisco del Laishí, southeast of Formosa, looks at his phone every hour to check if the grim forecast changes. He hopes that at some point the rains he has been waiting for will arrive. He is hopeless, since the weekend in the Pampas it rains with different degrees of intensity, however, there the storms pass by. There is no chance of rain until at least next week and he has already burned half of the field, where he and his family raise cattle and have a herd of pure pedigree Brangus breeders. A situation that is replicated in much of the province, where producers struggle to survive the lack of rainfall, fires and high temperatures.

According to the cattle producers for two years that the mileage is lower than the annual average and since November 24 that it has not rained significantly in a province that has 95% of the agricultural area with 8,045 farms with 1,635,473 heads of cattle.

Establishment Don Luis in Tatané, Formosa.
Establishment Don Luis in Tatané, Formosa.

“The animals ran desperately to escape that two-meter-high wave of flames, which left nothing behind. Fortunately, we were able to open some gates and they were able to get out, but the entire structure burned down,” says Severec.

In total, they lost 500 hectares. “We’re going to have to practically start from scratch.. We invested a lot there to make the divisions and everything was lost. Now we are forced to buy back wires, poles, rods and labor to reinstall everything that was burned”, he clarifies.

As they do intensive management, they divide the paddocks into circuits that are in turn subdivided into small plots of one hectare, where they rotate the animals to make their consumption more efficient. Yesterday, two of those circuits with bulls and cows, many pregnant or with calves at the foot, all pure pedigrees, were engulfed by fire.

Juan De Hagen (middle) talks to two producers
Juan De Hagen (middle) talks to two producers

“We can repair all of that, but if we lack grass we don’t have anything to feed the animals. We need it to start raining, otherwise I don’t know how we’re going to do it,” he says.

“We are running out of fields,” says concerned Bernardo Maglietti, an agricultural producer who has a family business that does breeding farms in Tatané in the north of Formosa and winters and finishes in the west in the Lomitas. As one of their fields was 40% burned, they rented another to move the farm 50km away. When they started moving, the rented house caught fire by almost 70%.

“The solution is on the way. We rented it because we knew that we had water there for at least two months. As if to close potholes and mend the situation”, he comments.

The producer estimates that as a result of the drought and the fires he has no more than 30-40 days of pasture left, until he has to move the farm to another place.

His biggest concern is the poor state of the farm, especially the breeding cow in full service that will impact him next year in pregnancy. “We did an early weaning to help the cow a little. We are going to try to provide service in March if it starts to drizzle and if not, we will pass it by the following spring”, he explains.

The dams where they store water during this torally dry season in the central west of Formoseño in Ibarreta.  Field managed by Juan De Hagen
The dams where they store water during this torally dry season in the central west of Formoseño in Ibarreta. Field managed by Juan De Hagen

Juan De Hagen manages mixed farms in the center west of Formosa in Ibarreta, Las Lomitas and Los Chiriguanos. He does not remember having experienced a water crisis of these characteristics, in the area it is the second consecutive year in which they have rains below normal and since November 24 that it has not rained.

Since there is no water in the subsoil in this area, they have rainwater harvesting surfaces and dams, but they are empty. “Normally, it rains here from October to May and this year we have not had any rain from November 23 to date, that is, two full months at the time when it rained the most and one took the opportunity to collect rainwater “, details.

The state of an Ibarreta field in 2019 compared to the current state.
The state of an Ibarreta field in 2019 compared to the current state.

As a consequence of the lack of water in one that is located in Los Chiriguanos, they had to reduce the farm by 30%, of the 1,500 heads they were forced to remove 1,000.

If the water crisis continues, the measure will be replicated in the other properties. “In the one located in Las Lomitas we have had empty dams for two years, but there we do have water in the subsoil, the problem is that when it does not rain there is no replenishment and the groundwater is becoming salinized”

But for Hagen the most serious problem is that this is the time of greatest grass production, which allows them, on the one hand, to have the best weight gains and, on the other, to prepare reserves for the winter.”I see the future with a very discouraging panorama because at the moment in which the normal thing is that we generate the greatest forage production. We are at the optimal planting date, but there is no humidity at all, the profiles are completely dry and with very little prospect of being able to plant corn and sorghum”, he indicates.


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