Adapting the dairy industry

Dairy Australia and partners have been very active in supporting R&D into adaptation options and strategies the assist the dairy industry adapt to climate challenges.

Dairy Businesses for Future Climates

The Dairy Businesses for Future Climates (DBfFC) project is a partnership between Dairy Australia, the Australian Department of Agriculture, the University of Melbourne and Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, which set out to consider what climate conditions will occur in dairy regions into the future and explore what farm systems may best suit those conditions.

Between 2013-2016 DBfFC undertook transdisciplinary research investigating the opportunities and trade-offs between farm systems of varying intensity in future climates. 

Case study farms in three target regions were considered: Fleurieu Peninsula; central Gippsland; and north-west Tasmania (see below map). 

For each farm,  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) were analysed against projected changes in climate. 

Location of Dairy Businesses for Future Climates research sites

DBfFC research findings

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.

National research findings (PDF)

Gippsland research findings (PDF)

Tasmanian research findings (PDF)

South Australian research findings (PDF)

By modelling three real base farms in different regions and testing three development options at each site the researchers were able to forecast all would be likely to have a reduction in profit. The growing season for pastures will shift under 2040 climate change scenarios creating feed challenges. Year to year climate variability will continue to be a challenge to dairy farm businesses.

In order to minimise the potential impacts of climate variability dairy farmers will need to continue to improve their management skills and continue to adapt their farm systems to manage future climate risks. 

The DBfFC project completed 30 June 2016. See Reports page for all project outputs.

Outcomes from the DBfFC research were presented at a Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre (PICCC) showcase on 23 August 2016 - presentations can be found here (external link to PICCC). 

Latest climate information for Australian dairy regions

CSIRO were commissioned to assess the potential impacts of climate change across all Australian dairy regions in 2016. The full report is available here:

Climate change impacts on Australia’s dairy regions (2016) 

Climate change represents a significant challenge to individuals, communities, governments, businesses and the environment. This report addresses the evidence for past and future climate change, with a focus on projections for Australia’s eight dairy regions in the year 2040.

Resources

  • DBFC builds on previous work undertaken through Mitigation and Adaptation in the Australian Dairy Industry (MAADI) jointly funded by Dairy Australia, Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Department of Primary Industries Victoria, Universities of Melbourne and Tasmania. MAADI delivered in the 8 dairy regions as Future Ready Dairy Systems.

  • National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility - official site

  • CSIRO Climate Adaptation Research - official site.

  • Kevin Hennessy, John Clarke, Tim Erwin, Louise Wilson and Craig Heady (2016) Climate change impacts on Australia’s dairy regions. A report for Dairy Australia. CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Melbourne, Australia.