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13 August 2015

Climate change impacts on livestock – what do we know?

Despite scientific advances around climate impacts, how livestock will be affected is still a relatively uncharted scientific territory. A new CGIAR working paper summarises what we know about climate change impacts on livestock systems in Africa.

A new working paper from the Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has been published on the impacts of climate change on livestock across Africa. The lead author of the new paper, Philip Thornton, is a scientist with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and CCAFS.

The study primarily covers livestock and climate impacts for Africa, but many findings, especially adaptation measures, can be applied globally. Authors conclude that the 2014 IPCC assessment contains only limited information on the projected impacts of climate change on livestock and livestock systems, compared with crops – a reflection on the relative amount of work that has been done. Thus, although progress on the topic has been made, it is clear that it is still in need of further collective scientific action.

With livestock systems already engaging 600 million farmers around the globe, and the livestock sector continuing to develop as demand for meat increases, more robust and detailed information is urgently needed, notes the study. This to better understand the trade-offs between various livestock adaptation options so that farmers and policy makers can make informed decisions around climate adaptation and resilience building.

Thornton looks at what we know about livestock and climate change in the study and states that the negative effects of increased temperature on feed intake, reproduction and performance on various livestock species is something that is reasonably well understood. For example, for most livestock species, such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens, temperatures between 10 and 30°Celsius is when they perform the best. But for each 1°Celsius increase above that, all species reduce their feed intake by 3-5 per cent. Without a doubt, this will have far reaching effects on the quality and quantity of livestock species, warns the author of the study.

Read more…

Download the Working Paper: Thornton PK, Boone RB, Ramirez-Villegas J. 2015. Climate change impacts on livestock (PDF). CCAFS Working Paper No. 120. 

Learn more: Searching for the best climate adaptation options for mixed crop and livestock farmers

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