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
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
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