Climate Change & Dairying in Western Victoria?

Western Vic Dairy

Type: Factsheet
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

There is sufficient scientific evidence regarding future worldwide climate change to justify industry action; and adaptation of farming systems to climate change is a high priority.


What does it mean?

This Dairy Australia fact sheet explores the issues associated with climate change for the dairy industry in Western Victoria.

Topics include:

  • what climate changes have already occurred?
  • what can we expect in the future?
  • what are the possible impacts and opportunities for the dairy industry?
  • how might irrigated dairy farms adapt?
  • temperature and/or rainfall predictions for Ballarat and Heywood

This fact sheet explains what the future may hold for the region in terms of further climate change. It explains how this might impact on dairy farms in the region and what new opportunities it may present. It also explores some of the ways in which western Victorian dairy systems could adapt to a changing climate.

What were the key findings?

The truth about climate change in Australia:

  1. a 1°C increase in the temperature is continually occurring since 1950
  2. southern and eastern Australia had more heat waves, fewer frosts, and less rain
  3. since 1850, it has been the warmest temperature for 12 years already
  4. the pattern of pasture growth has unfavorably changed and the spring now begins in about 2-4 weeks earlier than usual

The anticipated future (in 2030):

  1. there is an increase in the average temperatures, the evaporation rates, and the daily rainfall intensity and a number of dry days
  2. amounts of rainfall and runoff will reduce while seasonal rainfall patterns will change
  3. the drought will be more frequent and longer

The possible impacts and opportunities:

  1.  winter months will have warmer temperatures so frosts will be fewer but the pasture growth climbs
  2. earlier sowing of summer crops is enabled by the earlier warmer temperatures
  3. greater use of drought-tolerant perennial pasture species is accessible due to the longer growing season
  4. less rainfall and less run-off will likely happen as it reduces water security that favors short-rotation pasture systems
  5. the quality and quantity of feed grains and fodder produced outside dairy areas are unfavorably affected
  6. the warmer, drier and increased temperatures tolerate the heat stress in cattle but promote more competitiveness to C4 pasture species and more nutritious C3 species

The adaptation of dairy farming’s system:

  1. more shifting calving and shifting from perennial pastures to a mix of pastures/ crops
  2. more cutting silage and hay 2-3 weeks earlier
  3. improving the amount of forage cropping in winter, the bore water management, and use of dairy shed expansion and washdown water
  4. planning the dams shapes and planting more trees near it
  5. maintaining or adjusting the shade and shelterbelts for stock and pasture protection
  6. they may also need to alter their feedbase management approach

Final comment

As estimated and studied, the graph showed that the maximum and minimum daily temperatures at Ballarat and Heywood will increase by around 0.4 to 1.3°C while the projections of the rainfall in these regions will decrease by about 2-3% in summer and autumn, 4% in winter and 8% in spring.

2008 - Australia - Western Vic Dairy
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