Water helicoptered up to mountain pastures for thirsty cattle

The current drought has forced livestock farmers to hire helicopters to deliver water to cattle in hard-to-reach mountain pastures.

Springs and streams have almost dried up in pastures in Gruyère in the canton of Fribourg, meaning little or no water for cattle on summer grazing ground. Livestock farmers are having to foot the bill for deliveries of water in a helicopter bucket, at a cost of several thousand francs per delivery.

The Fribourg Agriculture Society says that, if the dry conditions continue, farmers will no longer be able to afford to pay for helicopter deliveries and will have to call on cantonal authorities to bring in the army to help, as happened in 2003, 2015 and 2018.

The canton of Fribourg has around 50,000 head of cattle, many of whom are on mountain pastures where the water needs are immense. In 2018, 422,000 litres of water were transported by air to 25 hard-to-reach sites, involving 350 helicopter trips.

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