Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality
REVIEW

The impact of extreme climatic events on pasture-based dairy systems: a review

J. Chang-Fung-Martel A D , M. T. Harrison B , R. Rawnsley B , A. P. Smith C and H. Meinke A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

B Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, Burnie, Tas. 7320, Australia.

C Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: janine.changfungmartel@utas.edu.au

Crop and Pasture Science 68(12) 1158-1169 https://doi.org/10.1071/CP16394
Submitted: 21 October 2016  Accepted: 29 November 2017   Published: 12 December 2017

Abstract

Extreme climatic events such as heat waves, extreme rainfall and prolonged dry periods are a significant challenge to the productivity and profitability of dairy systems. Despite projections of more frequent extreme events, increasing temperatures and reduced precipitation, studies on the impact of these extreme climatic events on pasture-based dairy systems remain uncommon. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated Australia to be one of the most negatively impacted regions with additional studies estimating Australian production losses of around 16% in the agricultural sector and 9–19% between the present and 2050 in the south-eastern dairy regions of Australia due to climate change.

Here we review the literature on the impact of climate change on pasture-based dairy systems with particular focus on extreme climatic events. We provide an insight into current methods for assessing and quantifying heat stress highlighting the impacts on pastures and animals including the associated potential productivity losses and conclude by outlining potential adaptation strategies for improving the resilience of the whole-farm systems to climate change. Adapting milking routines, calving systems and the introduction of heat stress tolerant dairy cow breeds are some proposed strategies. Changes in pasture production would also include alternative pasture species better adapted to climate extremes such as heat waves and prolonged periods of water deficit. In order to develop effective adaptation strategies we also need to focus on issues such as water availability, animal health and associated energy costs.

Additional keywords: cattle, grassland, heat wave, milk, model, rainfall, temperature-humidity index.


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