BAW Baw faces harsher fire weather, a greater frequency of hotter days and less rainfall according to the latest CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology’s Climate Change in Australia report.
First published in the 13 February edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
According to the CSIRO, the projections are the most comprehensive ever released for Australia. Information has been drawn from simulations based on up to 40 global climate models.
“There is very high confidence that hot days will become more frequent and hotter”, CSIRO principal research scientist Kevin Hennessy said in a media release.
The increase in mean temperature will also reduce the number of frost risk days, where the minimum temperature is under two degrees Celsius.
Australian Dairy Farmers Ltd released a report in 2007 on how climate change had already affected the region’s dairy farmers and will continue to do so.
“Dairy farmers in Gippsland have noticed that pasture growth patterns have changed and that spring now starts about two to four weeks earlier than it used to,” it read.
The drier climate brings opportunities for farmers to adapt. Fewer frosts will mean greater pasture growth rates and earlier warmer temperatures mean it will be possible to sow summer crops earlier.
Greater investment in crop storage and irrigation technology will, however, become necessary in order to adapt to the hotter weather.
Farmers who rely heavily on buying feed may need to secure supplies six to 12 months in advance, and those that grow their own may need to cut more silage and hay to manage the risk of less predictable summers.
Heat stress on cows can have a negative impact on milk production, meaning investment in evaporative cooling may be necessary.
GippsDairy executive officer Laurie Jeremiah told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen feed availability and other land usage changes as a result of a changing climate could affect local dairy farmers in the future.
“Yes, the effects could be positive or negative,” he said.
“A positive example is that Gippsland may benefit from the dairy industry knowledge associated with dairy farms in subtropical areas. Selection of pasture grasses from Queensland may help overcome any changes in Gippsland climate.
“A negative example may be that other regions currently producing grain may not be able to continue to meet our full needs. Again, we are already seeing grain being grown in our own region now. I don’t believe the region could be self sufficient yet for grain production, but we continue to adapt very quickly in order to sustain our industry.”
He said farmers in Baw Baw had already begun to adapt.
“Whilst many may not attribute specific changes to climate change, there have been shifts in practice as a response to seasonal events,” he said.
“We have seen an increase in chicory sown as it persists as a summer feed, some farmers have shifted calving pattern as the grass growth curve shifts, shade and shelter plantings on some farms, feed pads to manage drier summer conditions and wet soils following extreme rainfall events.”
“Climate change may cause a subtle change in the way industry operates, however I think the other factors, [biosecurity, financial security, the global financial crisis and Australian dollar, international trade agreements and so on,] will overshadow climate change and it will be very difficult to attribute any particular change directly to long term climate change.”
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