The monsoon failure and the consequent crop loss have caused a severe shortage of paddy straw, the staple fodder for cattle, across the district. Farmers say the shortage of straw has been compounded by the drought condition which has rendered grazing areas dry and triggered a drinking water shortage.

The situation is particularly bad in non-delta areas of the district where many farmers have preferred to leave their fields fallow. “There is a severe shortage of paddy straw across the district. We used to buy paddy straw of an acre for about Rs.5,000 locally.

Now we have to go in search of straw. Recently, I had to shell out Rs. 27,000 for two lorry loads of paddy straw procured from Allithurai near Tiruchi, which includes labour and transportation charges,” said N.Ganesan from Jadamangalam at Thathaiyengarpet in Tiruchi district.

Mr.Ganesan, who owns about 10 milch animals, said that the price of complex cattle feed has been increased to Rs.1,350 for a bag of 60 kg. The same feed was selling at Rs.950 in January, he said. “With the steep rise in the price of feed and shortage of straw, we have to ration them to our cattle,” he says.

Some farmers’ representatives say that they are facing a crisis situation and some farmers have started resorting to distress sale of their milch animals at low rates.

“Farmers who have a few milch animals are selling a couple of them to tide over the situation. But there are not many buyers at the shandies too. Hence, the animals are being sold at very low rates,” he said.

The price of straw varies from place to place. Usually, prices are much lower in areas with assured irrigation. But farmers report a shortage even in these places.

“We are facing a severe shortage of fodder and even water to feed the animals. Previously, paddy straw raised in an acre was available for just Rs. 500. Now we have to pay Rs. 5,000,” said M.Ramaiyan, a young farmer from Vengur.

Grazing fields have shrunk in view of the urbanisation. Several farmers could be seen letting their cattle in the dry Koothapar Big Tank where there are a few patches of greenery.

Farmers along the Cauvery river banks at Vengur and other villages say that they are now forced to depend on public taps to get water for their cattle as borewells have failed in the area.