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Australian Cattle Council : Yearbook 2008
page 72 C aTTL e COUNCIL OF a USTR a LI a Y ea RBOOK 2008 While uncertainty still surrounds the quantified implications arising from climate change (particularly at a regional level), there is now widespread consensus that the general picture for southern australia will include the following: • Increased variability within and between seasons, increased intensity in rainfall events and reduced annual average precipitation, including decreased: - winter rainfall in southern areas; - spring rainfall in southern and eastern areas; and, - autumn rainfall along the west coast. • Increased maximum temperature across the board, with maximised warming and/or drying effects in semi-arid regions of central australia. aside from the economic and environmental ramifications of higher intensity weather events (flood, drought, fire, etc), the bulk of these changes are expected to impact grazing systems at two levels: forage production (quality and quantity) and livestock performance (as influenced by forage attributes and environmental challenges arising from increased heat load, pests and disease). To a large degree, these challenges can be addressed via manipulation of the production system (pasture varieties, breed composition, stocking rate management, etc) to better suit the changing environment – a response for which the grazing sector as a whole is reasonably adept. Importantly, the predicted net reduction in sustainable farming area arising from climate change will place considerable competitive pressure on land use in the medium- and high-rainfall zone (= 400mm pa). In the case of livestock production, these pressures may be exacerbated by the fact that risk amelioration in alternative enterprises (especially cropping and forestry) may be simpler, thus increasing the capacity of those enterprises to better or more easily adapt to a changing climate. While land use pressure is by no means a new challenge to southern producers, further competition will place even greater impetus on the capacity of graziers to generate a sufficient return on their property investment, be it free- or lease-hold. The challenge for service and R&D providers therefore lies in developing tools and support systems that enable livestock producers to infuse greater flexibility (and therefore climatic resilience) into their business while being better equipped to address threats and Southern australia Beef Research Council aDapTINg TO a CHaNgINg CLIMaTe – DOINg WHaT We aLReaDY DO… BeTTeR as the most widespread agricultural land use sector in australia, extensive grazing systems have an established history of risk management in the face of climatic variability. While the capacity to respond to shorter-term seasonal variation is a feature embedded in many management systems, it is the extreme and longer-term polarisation of climate that presents the greatest challenge for livestock producers. Angus Hobson, Executive Officer, Southern Australia Beef Research Council