Swiss army helicopters have been called in to deliver water to thousands of thirsty farm animals in the country’s Alpine meadows as temperatures spike this summer.
Lower rainfall this year compelled farmers to call on the army to parachute in with much-needed refreshments for their cattle in order to avoid a drought that would cause feed shortages later in the year.
A two-week operation has begun, with Super Puma helicopters flying to replenish the nearly empty reservoirs used by farmers for their cows, whose milk is frequently used to manufacture Gruyere cheese, and other animals like as pigs and goats.
“There’s been a huge shortage of water this year,” said Frederic Menetrey, director of agriculture in the canton of Fribourg to Reuters. “It has a big impact on the pastures, breeding but also lowland agriculture.”
Without the emergency water source, the cattle would have to be moved from their elevated pastures to graze in the lowlands, where their winter hay is generally produced during the summer months.
Farmer Jacques Ruffieux, whose 130 cattle require 10,000 litres (2,640 US gallons) of water per day, said the year had been difficult due to a lack of rain.
“Since June 27, we only had 30 litres, it’s nothing,” the farmer stated, adding that the troops arrived just in time.
“We were a day and half from not having anything at all, it was very close,” he claimed.
Six helicopters have been mobilized for the mission, which will last until August 19, according to Swiss territorial army commander Mathias Tuescher.
He estimated that the helicopters could dump 400,000 tonnes of water into the reservoirs, with 1.5 tonnes delivered each time.
The operation was also carried out during the 2015 and 2018 droughts.
“With global warming, there is a probability that this kind of mission would be more frequent in the future,” he said.
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