Localities in northern mountainous provinces have instructed farmers to protect their cattle from the ongoing cold spell, which is forecast to last until late this week.

The instruction came from Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat in an attempt to minimise damage caused by the cold weather.

In the northern mountainous province of Bac Kan, the People's Committee of Cho Don district said local farmers had been told to put straw on the floor to keep their cattle warm.

Vice Chairman of the committee Ha Sy Huan said that local farmers had been asked not to graze their cattle when temperatures dropped below 10 degrees Celsius.

Veterinary staff had also been assigned to check for diseases among cattle and poultry, he said.

Tuyen Quang province lost over 2,600 cattle due to cold weather in the winter of 2011, and local breeders there have been instructed to cover their cattle cages when severe cold hits.

In a related movement, the ministry's Department of Livestock Protection has issued guidelines to show farmers how to keep their cattle warm during the winter.

The department said that cattle sheds should protect cows and buffalos from rain and wind, and be airy in the summer and warm during winter. Breeders should put a 15cm layer of straw on shed floors, and more when the weather turns cold and wet. Heaters were also advised along with enough feed and water for the cattle.

Deputy Minister Vu Duc Tam has ordered localities to draw from local budgets to help poor farmers reinforce sheds to protect cattle from the winter.

A cold spell hit the northern region on December 16 morning, according to the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting.

During the next three days, the lowest temperatures in Hanoi are expected to drop to 9 degrees Celsius, with highs of 19C. Severe cold weather is also predicted to blanket delta provinces, and the temperature is forecast to drop to zero in several mountainous areas with frost likely.-VNA