Climate Savvy Grazing to Mitigate Ruminant Methane

Dr David Phelps et. al. - Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Queensland - Meat & Livestock Australia

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

This research article looks at climate savvy grazing comparative analyses of rumen microbiomes to mitigate ruminant methane and improve feed utilisation. Interesting to note that there is variability throughout the potential changes to rainfall across northern Australia under climate change.

Comparative analysis of microbiomes and improve feed utilisation

What is the problem?

Northern Australia’s beef industry relies on native pastures and natural rainfall patterns for breeding and background. Approximately 30% of the native pasture lands have been reduced in productivity and health (Tothill and Gillies 1998). A key reason for this decline is high rainfall variability and the consequential delay in detecting on-ground changes which result from grazing management.

This analysis aimed to:

  • Identify potential grazing and related management strategies for building resilience and coping with a changing climate for six target regions.
  • Pinpoint related management strategies and guidelines for building resilience for each of the target regions.
  • Promote a plan in each region for evaluation, improvement, and extension of a selection of best-bet grazing and related management strategies.
  • Classify the likely biophysical, production and economic impacts of climate change for each region, using the best available climate projections and bio-economic modeling.
  • Determine the best-practice future grazing and related management strategies and responses for each region, using the best available climate projections and bioeconomic modeling.

What did the research involve?

The project integrated industry consultation and engagement with a review of the existing information and computer simulation modeling in six key regions across northern Australia:

  • Maranoa-Balonne region of Queensland
  • Fitzroy catchment of Queensland
  • Victoria River District of the Northern Territory
  • Alice Springs District of the Northern Territory
  • Gulf region of north-west Queensland
  • Kimberley of Western Australia

Synthesis of existing information

  • The existing literature and major reports on grazing management across northern Australia were consolidated and synthesized by CSIRO, NT Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Queensland (DAFF)

Industry consultation and engagement

  • Industry consultation and engagement proceeded through workshop and adoption phases within each region.

Computer simulation modeling

  • Two long-standing and scientifically accepted computer simulation models developed specifically for northern Australia were refined into a single platform to simulate both the biological (GRASP) and economic (ENTERPRISE) production systems at a property and paddock scale. nGRASP was first developed in the early 1980s and includes a wide range of pasture growth and grazing impact parameters.

Simulating future scenarios

Stocking rate, wet season spelling and fire management options to build resilience to potential climate changes were evaluated for:

  • land condition
  • cattle productivity and
  • economic performance

What were the key findings?

  • The representative properties defined in workshop one varied considerably in property (17,000-460,000 ha) and herd (2,300-15,000 head) size.
  • Rainfall dominated the pasture response to the climate change scenarios leading up to 2070, even though evaporation and CO2 are important factors.
  • All regions received less rainfall under the worst-case scenario, with the Alice Springs region faring the worst and the Gulf and VRD faring the best (or perhaps the ‘least-worst’).

Final comment

The Climate Savvy Grazing project explored the grazing management and natural resource aspects of resilience to shocks through industry consultation, on-ground events and research and computer simulation modeling. We conclude that good land condition is necessary to reduce the risk of exposure to high climatic variability both undercurrent.

2014 - Australia - Dr David Phelps et. al. - Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Queensland - Meat & Livestock Australia
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