Review: Adaptation of ruminant livestock production systems to
This article reviews information on climate change impacts and adaption
in livestock systems. Options investigated, include those addressing direct
impacts on animals, indirect impacts on availability of water and feed, and
feed quality. Three examples highlight climate impacts and potential adaptation
options: cattle in France, dairy in Australia, and sheep and goats in Ethiopia.
Land degradation, changes in species composition, and expanding pest
distributions due to climate change will also impact livestock systems.
Successful adaptation must consider, and is reliant, on local
conditions. For instance, in regions where there is a trend to summer dominated
rainfall, changes to C4 grasses could increase productivity. Similarly, the selection
of livestock breed, and pasture species should reflect the balance of
productivity and robustness suited to the location and system. Some options are
more broadly applicable, for example, reductions in crude protein of forage will
likely require protein supplementation in extensive systems. Improvements to
feedlots to reduce heat stress include diet changes to reduce heat load, frequent
water changes, provision of shade or sprinklers. Potential water shortages
require increasing the number of dams, storage tanks, and watering points as
well as shading dams and watering points to increase water availability and
reduce impacts of heat stress.
The review identified future research priorities including several
topics on pasture requiring more analysis. Further details on climate change
impacts and interactions on forage quality and quantity are required. There is
also a need to identify location specific, tipping points, for switching
pasture species over short and long timeframes. The extent to which different pasture
species mixes could support livestock in future climates would also be
informative. Developing strategies to address new pests and diseases in a
region will be important as their ranges expand into areas previously uninhabitable.
Incorporating the cost of extreme events into the costs and benefits of
management of these events is crucial in evaluating the effectiveness of
options. Longer-range weather forecasting will support decision-making and
provides a proactive risk management strategy for these types of events.