Monday, March 1, 2010

Extreme Mongolian Winter Kills Five Million Head.

An astounding 5.5 million head of cattle will die this winter in Mongolia.  I am offended by this.  There is a reason we put up hay and actually protect our livestock during the winter.  It needs a capital investment in sheds and fodder storage but I am sure that they have just lost the entire capital cost in livestock.  Is it that difficult to show them how and to arrange basic supplies?  Do individuals need to simply own haying rights?

This is not asking too much.  It looks like they only need a couple months of supply to pass through the danger period and that is just the time the animals need extra feed to handle the cold anyway.  They can even start with scythes, if they have to and build good old hat stacks.

I do not know what else grows in this country, but you can be sure that there is ample grass in the spring to make hay.  They could even have access to cattails to produce silage if they want to work at it.  It is no trick at all to hack out the necessary fodder and put it up in ricks for the winter.  One can even protect the top from rains and sun with a simple tarp.

I am confounded by the lack of any such measures, particularly when this happens every decade or so.

Extreme winter spells disaster for Mongolia

by Staff Writers

Ulan Bator (AFP) Feb 25, 2010

Officials in Mongolia have declared more than half of the impoverished country a disaster area due to harsh winter weather, as the UN on Thursday launched a programme to help struggling nomads.

About 2.5 million livestock had perished nationwide as of Monday, the government's State Emergency Commission reported this week, after weeks of persistent snow and temperatures below minus 50 Celsius (minus 58 Fahrenheit).

The government estimates three million more will die before the cold weather ends in June.

Total economic losses so far are estimated at 62 million dollars, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Nearly two-thirds of the landlocked Asian country has been buried under 20 to 40 centimetres (eight to 16 inches) of snow, making grazing impossible for the country's herds of cows, yaks, goats, sheep, horses and camels.

"Livestock is the cornerstone of existence for so many Mongolians and many people have lost all their direct income and food source," said Akbar Usmani, the representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Mongolia.

The UNDP on Thursday announced a plan to pay 60,000 herders to clean and bury the carcasses of the dead livestock to prevent the spread of disease before the spring thaw begins.

No strangers to harsh conditions, Mongolians call such extreme weather a "Dzud": a severely cold winter after a dry summer that combined mean food shortages for the livestock that generations have depended on for survival.

A third of Mongolia's 2.6 million people lead nomadic lives and depend entirely on livestock for a living.

Mongolia has approved a special 2.6-million-dollar budget for emergency aid to Dzud-affected areas, but the UN says it will need at least six million dollars more to care for surviving animals and clear the carcasses of the dead.

The State Emergency Commission has warned the snow also means there is a high risk of floods once spring comes.

A devastating winter in 2001 forced many Mongolian herder families to abandon their way of life and move to cities.

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