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Case Studies

Sheep and beef farming across New Zealand’s regions include a diverse mix of land classes, stock classes, stocking rates and environments.  For this reason, it is useful to take a closer look at three farming scenarios to demonstrate impacts of climate change and provide some insights.

The case studies are modelled against two scenarios – high emissions and low emissions between 1990 and 2040. 

Southland Case Study

Based on a Southern hill country finishing-breeding farm operation (BLNZ class 6).  The farm has a sheep and beef stocking policy that was set to increase between 1990 and 2040 from 12.5 to 14.7 stock units per hectare. 

Predicted temperature changes within this timeframe are set to increase by 0.9-1.4°C with the occurrence of slightly more hot days that exceed 30°C.  Annual rainfall is also predicted to increase in this region with an increase from 6 to 8 days of rainfall in excess of 25mm over the 50 year timeframe.

Under the low emission scenario, total annual pasture production increased by 1000 kg DM ha-1y-1.  Under the higher emission scenario dry matter lifted by 1500 kg DM ha-1y-1 and showed more pronounced changes in monthly average daily growth rates especially in spring.  Further, the inter-annual variation in growth rates increased markedly during the summer months.  

From a financial point of view, if management practices from 1990 remain unchanged, i.e. business as usual, then an increase in gross margin will still be realised.  However, if adaptions to the changing climate are incorporated into farm management, a greater gross margin may be achieved.

Hawkes Bay Case Study

​Based on a representation of a Hawke’s Bay, Tararua or Wairarapa farm this 570 ha sheep and cattle breeding and finishing farm is on easy to medium hill country, with some steeper aspects (on which lower intensive farming practices are undertaken).  In 1990 the stocking rate was expected to have been 10 stock units per hectare shifting to 9.7 in 2040.

 Under both the low and high emission scenarios, temperatures increased 0.7°C and 1°C respectively.  The farm was likely to be exposed to a further 6 days per year at temperatures exceeding 28°C and at the other end of the spectrum 16 less days per year where temperatures would drop below 2°C.

Under the low emission scenario, the level of annual rainfall decreased from 883mm/y to 857 mm/y while at the high emission level rainfall decreases by only 7mm from the 1990 base records.

Under the low emission scenario total annual pasture production decreased slightly by 200 kg DM ha-1y-1 from 1990 levels of 6500 kg DM ha-1y-1 while in the high emission scenario total annual pasture production dropped by 300  kg DM ha-1y-1

There will be changes in monthly growth rates: for example, it is predicted that by 2040 the late winter-early spring pasture growth rates will have increased overall by 15% compared to 1990.  Further, under the high emissions scenario, growth rates in November through to January may decrease by up to 30%.

From a financial point of view, if management practices from 1990 remain unchanged, i.e. business as usual, then a reduced gross margin will be achieved.  However, if adaptations to the changing climate are incorporated into farm management, a greater gross margin will remain at existing levels.  This suggests great incentive for farmers to put in place tactical and strategic adaptations to build their farms resilience to changing climate on their farm business.

Waikato Case Study​

This 782 ha North West Waikato farm is an intensive system of mixed land classes and slope.  The farm had a stocking rate of 10.1 SUha-1 and a sheep to beef ratio of 67:33 in 1990.

Under the low emission scenario annual temperatures increased by 0.9°C and rainfall increased annually by 14mm. 

In contrast, under the high emission scenario for this farm, annual temperatures increased by 1.2 °C but rainfall levels fell by 120mm per annum. 

Further, it is likely that the number of days where temperatures would exceed 28°C would increase by 6 days per year by 2040 while days where temperatures fell below 2°C would decrease by 13 days per year. 

Within this environment it was expected that annual pasture production under the low emission scenario would only increase 4% by 2040.

Under the high emission scenario pasture production was expected to increase by 13%. 

For both scenarios an earlier spring flush can be expected over time.  While the high emission scenario could expect similar summer growth to what is currently experienced, under the low scenario, late summer-early autumn would see a decrease in pasture production.

From a financial point of view, if management practices from 1990 remain unchanged, i.e. business as usual, then the gross margin of the business will remain the same.  However, if adaptions to the changing climate are incorporated into farm management, a greater gross margin may be achieved.

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