Livestock operations are sensitive to climate change and variability. Heat stress reduces dairy and livestock production, with decreases in yields as great as 10% projected for the southeastern region. Climate changes impact the quality of feed and pasture resources and may result in higher feed prices. Vector-borne diseases from flies, mosquitoes, and ticks are expected to change in distribution and severity with climate conditions. More frequent or intense extreme weather events may increase animal morbidity. Increases in invasive (non-native) species can reduce pasture productivity by garnering water and nutrient resources. For more info, see Big Facts Climate Impacts on Livestock.
Selecting breeds that perform reasonably well across a range of production environments may increase livestock producers’ resilience to climate-related stress. Conservation practices such as nutrient management, rotational grazing, waste utilization, runoff management, and silvopasture can reduce economic risk and improve livestock condition, pasture yields, and pasture and water quality (see NRCS livestock factsheets). Improved water and soil management can contribute to additional grazing land outputs of wildlife habitat, clean water production, and recreation opportunities. Many of these practices will also conserve natural gas and other energy use and mitigate future climate changes.