Nick Minchin doesn’t stand a chance of changing my mind – I accept the evidence that climate change is real, along with (apparently) 97% of scientists.
In our part of the world, the long term trend is “dry, dry and drier” and the CSIRO’s State of the Climate Report confirms what many farmers here are dealing with right now.
What local dairy farmers are doing to cope with climate variability
We’ve been holding meetings and farm days to discuss how we can adapt. Here are some of the things locals are doing to help their farms cope with increased climate variability:
- Changing the time of year calves are born
On our farm, we are moving the start of calving from winter to autumn – a shift of almost two months. This allows us to take advantage of extra grass during milder winters while reducing our exposure to longer, hotter, drier summers.
- Planting trees
Trees aren’t just good for wildlife – they offer our cows shelter from uncomfortable weather and help to protect pastures from searing summer winds.
- Trialling new pasture types
Rye grass is the mainstay of dairy farming pastures around here but it has shallow roots that are quite vulnerable to heat and pests (which are expected to become more problematic). We’ve been sowing cocksfoot and fescue in some of our less productive pastures. Both have deep root systems that can tap into moisture lower in the soil. Other farmers are trialling chicory, plantain and other herbs too.
- Shade and sprinklers at the dairy
Lots of us have installed sprinklers and shade sails over the dairy yards and fans in the shed to help keep the cows cool while they wait to be milked, minimising the risk of heat stress.
- Increasing energy efficiency
Farmers have been flocking to seminars about green cleaning and water heating technology. For us, it’s meant a thorough audit of our dairy’s refrigeration, milking machines and hot water system.
In other words, local farmers are reading the tea leaves and, for us, the gazillion-dollar question is not whether climate change is real (or whether it’s caused by people) but what we should do about it. Consider us your canaries.