Cullen, B and Ayre, M and Armstrong, D and Harrison, M and Reichelt, N and Hayman, G and Brown, R and White, M and Mason, W and Rawnsley, R and Nettle, R and Beilin, R and Phelps, C, Dairy businesses for future climates, Climate Adaptation 2016, 05-07 July 2016, Adelaide, Australia (2016) [Conference Extract]
The Australian dairy industry has been on an intensification pathway over recent decades, utilising higher levels of inputs to produce milk, however this pathway has been questioned in light of projections for warmer and more variable future climates. ‘Dairy businesses for future climates’ was a transdisciplinary research project that investigated the opportunities and trade-offs between farm systems in future climates. Integral to the project’s success was the interaction between biophysical, economic and social research teams and regional working groups (RWGs) consisting of industry representatives in the target regions: Fleurieu Peninsula; central Gippsland; and north-west Tasmania. The RWGs identified a case study farm and three contrasting development options representing relevant systems that ‘Intensify’ (increased stocking rate and off-farm resources), ‘Simplify’ (reduced stocking rate and off-farm resources) or ‘Adapt’ (re-organise current resources) the case study farms. Climate change was predicted to reduce profitability of all options in all regions, but farmers were generally confident to adapt. Climate change appears to be some impediment to intensification, but it is likely that a range of development options will be implemented depending on the farms unique resources, skills and goals. Intensify options were also considered more stressful and threatened by the withdrawal of the social license to operate due to animal welfare concerns and environmental issues. Results highlighted that systems changes to align with projected changes in climate (such as Adapt options) or Simplify the production system are realistic alternatives to the long term trend for intensification for dairy businesses in future climates.