Extreme heat has dried up pastures in drought-hit Kazakhstan, causing farmers to use cardboard to feed their cattle and other livestock.
The situation is so extreme that the president recently fired the agricultural minister, Saparkhan Omarov, for failing to do enough to help farmers cope.
But as politicians debate whether they can afford to help farmers who have lost cattle, a well-known local blogger said the farmers have been taking matters into their own hands by feeding their animals cardboard.
Azamat Sarsenbayev, who lives in Aktau, captured images in Akshymyrau village in Mangystau, Kazakhstan, and shared them on Facebook on Tuesday.
In one of the pictures, the wife of a local farmer is seen making a cardboard snack for his sheep.
“To save fodder, small farms soak the cardboard in water and after it gets wet, the soft cardboard is mixed with bran and anything else they have to hand,” wrote the blogger. “This trick is as old as the world.”
A month ago, a video appeared on social networks, filmed in the Mangystau region of Kazakhstan, where camels are also being fed cardboard.
Camels are ruminants — like cattle, sheep, goats and even giraffes — and have four stomachs. They regurgitate their food before chewing it again, which allows them to eat thorny or sharp plants that other animals can’t eat.
Their eating habits help them withstand harsh desert environments.
Cardboard is made from cellulose, which, unlike humans, can be digested by cattle, but it is not clear how much nutritional value it has.
According to commentators, this particular trick has been practiced in the area for many years and is now a common solution for hungry animals.
But with much of Kazakhstan in the midst of a water crisis, the situation is not isolated to the Mangystau region.
Last month Kazakh officials reported that over 2,000 animals had died from a lack of food and water in the Kyzylorda and Mangystau provinces.
In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, farmers have staged multiple protests because of the lack of water for irrigation. In Uzbekistan, authorities began rationing water in the city of Samarkand to prevent the crisis from heightening.
The Kazakh government confirmed that the reason for the unusual livestock food was the severe drought.
“Yes, we had a problem this year — drought,” local government officials told Kazakh news site Zakon. “But at the moment, feed is already being supplied.”
“Volunteers are bringing feed to the region,” added officials.
(Edited by Ali McCadden and Kristen Butler)
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