Management options for dairy farms under climate change: Effects of intensification, adaptation and simplification on pastures, milk production and profitability

Matthew T. Harrisona, Brendan R. Cullen, Dan Armstrong - Agricultural Systems

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

A well thought out model that may give you some ideas on how to manage a changing climate.

What is the problem?

The global demand for food is increasing, including dairy. Dairy systems in southern Australia are varied, yet pasture production is still a very important aspect. This is dependent on climatic factors, and climate change will affect this, with less rain and an increase in temperature predicted. This study used case study farms to model the effect of climate change and 3 different management strategies to deal with this.

What did the research involve?

A large number of variables were input for the modeling scenarios. The locations of the ‘baseline’ farms were the Fleurieu Peninsula in SA, Gippsland in Victoria, and North-Western Tasmania. The 3 development strategies are Intensify, Adapt and Simplify. Historical climate data, regional working groups and site characteristics, climate change data and economic analyses were all used.

What were the key findings?

The modeled changes result in reduced pasture growth, with dryland farms experiencing hotter, drier conditions and reduced growing durations through later autumn breaks and earlier finishes to spring growth. Winter growth rates, however, were enhanced. Ph is another variable and showed less fluctuation in irrigation systems. Overall, reduced milk production and income, increased costs due to additional fodder conservation and more purchased feed were observed with climate change. Short term climate variability resulted in larger changes, suggesting farm outcomes may be improved by managing for short-term climate variation.

Final comment

The authors conclude that climate change will impact diary on a regional and individual operation basis. This may be obvious, but the paper does describe plans that may be relatable on an individual level for you.

2017 - Australia - Matthew T. Harrisona, Brendan R. Cullen, Dan Armstrong - Agricultural Systems
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