Huge cost of hay from canal-irrigated areas force farmers to resort to distress sale of cattle

The failure of monsoon over the past couple of years and the consequent crop failure have resulted in an acute shortage of dry fodder, especially hay, for cattle in many of the rain-fed and well-irrigated areas of the district.

The situation is bad in the arid regions of Manapparai and Marungapuri where farmers are resorting to distress sale of their cattle. Many farmers at the shandy on Wednesday said they were forced to sell the milch animals because of shortage of fodder and water.

In the absence of buyers, the milch animals did not fetch a good price. “I sold two cows at the shandy today. I had purchased one of them for Rs. 35,000 a couple of years ago here and today I sold it for Rs. 17,000 as I could not afford to buy dry fodder or the cattle feed,” said Arockiasamy of T. Udayapatti.

Open wells and borewells, some as deep as 400 feet to 500 feet, have gone dry across the region, effectively bringing agricultural operations to a standstill in many villages over the past couple of years. “The monsoon has been very poor over the past three years in the region and most farmers could not raise any crop. The open well in my farm, which is nearly 200 feet deep, has gone dry. Borewells have failed and there is nothing we can do,” said R. Renganathan, district vice president, Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam, and a farmer of Vidathilampatti near Manapparai.

The only option for farmers now is to purchase hay from the canal-irrigated delta areas of the Tiruchi and Karur districts such as Lalgudi and Kulithalai. Farmers said they have to shell out Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 12,000 for a tractor load of hay from Lalgudi or Kulithalai and another Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 3,000 towards transport and labour costs.

Most small farmers could not afford to buy the hay at such huge costs. A tractor load of hay would last for a couple of months for two or three cattle heads, farmers said. “I had nearly 20 cows until a few years ago but I have sold most of them and only two are left. The borewells have gone dry and our fields look like a burial ground,” says N. Chinnasamy of Sevalur, who takes pride in being a long time supplier to the Manapparai Cooperative Milk Society. He had won prizes for four years for supplying maximum quantity of milk to the society. Being one of the directors of the society, he continues to supply milk to society.

Farmers say that without green fodder, the milk yield from cows and buffaloes have gone down. In many villages, cattle could be seen rummaging through the dry foliage. “We send our cattle for grazing just to give some exercise to the animals,” says T. Karunakaran and K. Parvathi of Vidathilampatti.