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Stackyard News Jul 07

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Impact of Climate Change on UK Livestock

Climate change may have an impact on where livestock are located, and how they are housed, transported and cared for.


This will have financial implications for producers, and will also have wider environmental consequences for society. This raises the question, ‘how much should be spent over the next two decades to offset these private and public good impacts and who should spend it?’

This issue is now being addressed in a two year Defra-funded project led by SAC economist, Dominic Moran, with inputs from key industry stakeholders, IGER (Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research) and a multidisciplinary team combining expertise in grassland modeling, animal nutrition, health and welfare, and economics. The team will look at the extent of the impact of climate change on UK livestock and will assess how much, if anything, should be spent by government to adapting the sector to potential adverse impacts.

After forecasting how warming scenarios will impact UK livestock production practices, the team will then consider the best possible combination of adaptation measures and their costs, before recommending on the range of publicly funded adaptation options. These recommendations will take note of current sector reforms and the need to account for background changes likely to occur even without climate change.


  • Livestock production generates more gross revenue than any other single output in UK agriculture; in 2003 the value of livestock output (i.e. livestock production and products) was £9.2 billion of which £5.9 billion was livestock production.
  • The four major livestock groups (cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry) have different geographical distributions and so can be expected to be affected differently by warmer summers, wetter winters, more flooding events and the emergence of a range of pests
  • Adaptation to climate change is likely to take place slowly, and at a cost borne predominantly by private producers themselves. But there may be instances where private adaptation may have unintended side effects on the environmental and animal health and welfare; this is where public interest may be at stake.
  • Informed adaptation by government will be a process of working out how to safeguard areas of society that may be particularly vulnerable to climate related impacts. Not all areas will be equally exposed, and both private and public sectors should only logically invest in adaptation up to the point that delivers a benefit in terms of avoided damages. From a government perspective, the basic economic need is to identify where and when to spend money to help livestock producers to adapt in a way that minimize the public good impacts.

link Natural England supports Year of Food and Farming
link Young People Wanted for A Life On The Land
link Traditional landscapes are changing says Natural England
link Who Will Pay For The Countryside?

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