Mongolian Herders Hit Hard by Harsh Winter

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Over 90% of Mongolia has been experiencing an extremely snowy winter resulting in livestock being unable to find fodder through the snow cover, and a large number of animals have died due to starvation and cold. A Mongolian term used to describe severe winter weather such as this is zud or dzud.



Nearly half of Mongolia’s population are herders or farmers whose livestock are their main asset. According to the Red Cross, nearly 10% of Mongolia’s livestock have died since December because of the extreme cold weather. The deep snow has cut off their access to food. Temperatures in Mongolia in recent months have dropped below -40C. This has been one of the country’s hardest winters in years and it is said to have contributed to 4.5 million livestock deaths. It is not uncommon for zuds to kill over one million head of livestock in a single winter.

A severe winter has left 4.5 million livestock dead across Mongolia. Image: Reuters


The government has declared a national disaster and reports 133 soums (districts) across 19 of the country’s 21 provinces are suffering from the harsh conditions. Up to 507,000 people have been affected by this event. The Red Cross launched an emergency appeal for 1 million Swiss francs to assist Mongolian herders.

Surface analysis and current conditions over Mongolia on Tuesday, March 30. Image: ImpactWeather Gmaps 2.0


According to the World Bank Report, this zud has been the worst in several years. It doesn’t look like winter is done just yet for Mongolia, either. Snow will be possible again today for northern and central Mongolia. Strong high pressure over southern Russia and western China will result in strong winds over southern Mongolia. Winds reaching 35-40 mph will be possible today with gusts up to 50 mph.


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