Frost Damage Forces Farmers to Buy Hay

Farmers in North and East Iceland will likely need to purchase hay in order to keep their sheep fed this winter, due to heavy spring frost, RÚV reports. Sveinbjörn Þór Sigurðsson of Búvellir farm in Aðaldalur, North Iceland says 80-90% of his hayfields were frozen in spring, and dry weather exacerbated the situation.

The tables have turned since 2018, when Icelandic farmers’ hay harvest was so abundant they sold to drought-plagued Norway. This year a cold spring has made haymaking a challenge for many farmers in Iceland.

The weather improved at Búvellir in the summer and Sveinbjörn has managed to make enough hay for his winter supply. Other farmers have not been as lucky, however. Geir Árdal of Dæli farm has had to purchase hay for his livestock. “We’ve bought about 300 bales,” he told reporters. “Of course it’s much better to make hay if you can do it yourself.”

Weather in South and West Iceland has been more favourable: farmers there are not facing hay shortages in those regions this season.

Iceland’s Farmers Fear Hay Shortage This Winter

hay

The summer’s first hay harvest has proved poor for many farmers across North and East Iceland, RÚV reports. Many fear they may have to reduce their livestock in the fall due to a lack of feed. A cold and dry spring is to blame for the poor grass growth, but many farmers are hopeful that harvest later this summer will prove bountiful.

“In my 46-year farming career I think this is the worst frost that I have experienced personally, but it varied between farms,” stated Sveinbjörn Þór Sigurðsson of Búvellir farm in Aðaldalur, North Iceland. Sveinbjörn says 80-90% of his hayfields were frozen in spring, and dry weather exacerbated the situation. “In most places it’s around half of the usual haymaking from the first harvest,” he stated. “Both here and elsewhere.”

Þingeyjarsýsla municipality, where Sveinbjörn’s farm is located, was one of the worst affected by weather conditions this spring, though farms in East Iceland were also hit hard. The fields that remain frozen in spring are often the most newly-cultivated, and therefore provide the best-quality feed.

Weather in South and West Iceland has been more favourable and farmers there are not facing hay shortages in the fall. Sveinbjörn says that despite the poor spring in the region, farmers have high hopes that the second harvest of the summer will be good. “These difficulties just make you stronger and we farmers have often had it bad, but we always bounce back well.”

Horse Illness Linked to Feed

Forty-four horses in Iceland have been diagnosed with symptoms of acquired equine polyneuropathy (AEP), RÚV reports. Although the disease, also known as Scandinavian knuckling syndrome, is common in other Nordic countries, this is the first time it has been diagnosed in Iceland. Veterinarians with the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) have determined that horses have contracted the disease from their feed.

AEP is a “…neurological disease characterised by pelvic limb knuckling.” Such muscle deterioration in horses’ hind quarters gives them an abnormal “sidewinder” gait. According to Sigríður Björnsdóttir, a veterinarian who specialises in equine diseases at MAST, the disease mostly effects younger horses, and, although it can be fatal, she says the survival rate for diagnosed animals is good: about 70% make a full recovery.

Of the 44 horses that have been diagnosed with AEP in Iceland, 12 have had to be euthanised and one was found dead. Sigríður says that the disease has been linked to hay and feed that the diagnosed horses consumed. What precisely in the hay is causing the disease is unknown, but researchers have identified a specific kind of hay that is the problem and have ensured that it will not be fed to any more horses.

Other than immediately changing horses’ feed, there is little that can be done to hasten the diagnosed animals’ recovery except to ensure that they don’t suffer any extra stresses, as this can make the symptoms worse.

A Dry Norway Needs Iceland’s Hay

hay

Extensive droughts in Norway have led the country to turn to Iceland for much-needed hay, RÚV reports. As a result, the Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) is scrambling to provide the required information to their Norwegian counterpart.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority imposes certain requirements on the Icelandic hay imports, among other things to prevent the spread of animal diseases. MAST must certify all the hay before it is exported. Managing Director Þorvaldur H. Þórðarson says the process has been a challenge as many of the organisation’s staff are on summer vacation.

Icelandic hay has previously been exported to Holland, Belgium, and the Faroe Islands.