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Beyond the Bale : September 2012
30 ON-FARM September 2012 BEYOND THE BALE climate might have at a local and enterprise level, focussing on feed production, the impacts on livestock production and what that might mean for farm profitability. We have not had this information before. "Using the information generated from the models makes it clearer what the future might hold, and which responses might be more useful. More importantly, the research also shows that some adaptations that may be beneficial in the future are actually worth pursuing today." Under a range of temperature, rainfall and CO2 levels, the models predict the likely levels of pasture production at specific locations. Modelling directly involving producers was undertaken in 46 distinct locations (country towns) across southern Australia. A further 43 locations were modelled by the University of Melbourne, CSIRO and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) to provide some of the underpinning science. "Farmers will no doubt seek to change management strategies to adjust to altered climatic conditions. So, working directly with farmers, the project also tested changed practices, such as changing lambing time, using summer confinement feeding, genetic improvement," Mr Manatsa added. SLA 2030 was funded through the Federal Government's Climate Change Research Program, AWI, MLA and Dairy Australia. Partners in the project included CSIRO, the University of Melbourne, TIA plus five state agencies (Victoria DPI, SARDI, NSW DPI, TIA and WADAF) and hundreds of livestock producers across southern Australia. More information: www.wool.com KEY FINDINGS Climate conditions and adaptation strategies will vary across regions Climate predictions and their impact on production and profit vary across southern Australian locations. While climate scenarios show that grazing systems will still be viable in southern Australia in 2030, they also show that with some adaptation these systems can be more profitable. The most advantageous adaptation strategies vary between regions. A combination will be needed -- there is no silver bullet. Most scenarios suggest higher temperatures and less rainfall The majority of future climate scenarios suggest that much of southern Australia will potentially have higher temperatures and less rainfall, with higher growth rates in winter and early spring, but the spring growing season will contract, with an earlier onset of the dry summer period (and reduced stocking rates in order to maintain ground cover). For some areas, eg parts of Tasmania and mainland higher rainfall / colder regions, the outcomes could be positive. Lower stocking rates but increased production Sustainable stocking rates are set to decline due to lower and more variable pasture growth and longer periods of pasture decay over summer. The lower stocking rates are partly balanced by increases in production per head due to higher pasture legume content and lower lamb mortality. While sheep may provide a buffer in bad years, there is no indication from any of the models that changing entire enterprises is going to be a fundamentally sensible thing to do in the future. Drier farming zones will be most affected There is strong evidence that total annual pasture production in southern Australia is generally resilient to warming of +1°C and 10 per cent less rainfall, but further changes are likely to reduce annual pasture growth. The impact will be greater in 2050 than 2030 and greater again in 2070, with data suggesting that the drier farming zones will be most affected. Changes in rainfall are the single most important driver of impacts on broadacre livestock. Adaptation strategies Importantly, the best strategies or practices are already known to many producers and are applicable today and in the future. Increasing soil fertility is the most effective and persistent adaptation option for woolgrowers. Modelling suggests that, with adaptive breeding, current forage species will still be the most suitable into 2050, and there would be no production advantage moving to more tropical species within this timeframe. Heat tolerance traits in pasture plants will become increasingly important. Adding Lucerne to the feedbase and confinement feeding are useful adaptations at some, but not all locations. Genetic improvement gains were found to increase out to 2050 but leveled off at 2070. RELATIVE CHANGE IN PROFIT % 200 150 100 50 0 50 100 150 200 CONDOBOLIN KYANCUTTA LAMEROO LAKE GRACE ESPERANCE DALWALLINU BIRCHIP CUMMINS NARRANDERA SWAN HILL WELLINGTON STAWELL COOTAMUNDRA BAKERS HILL COLAC TATURA HAMILTON LUCINDALE MOUNT BARKER GOULBURN ARMIDALE ELLINBANK LAUNCESTON MANSFIELD KATANNING Profit Increase Profit Reduction Loss Relative change in profit by 2030 for grazing enterprises With Adaptations No Adaptations