Listen: Climate challenges facing the grazing industries

In this Dean’s Research Seminar Professor Richard Eckard, Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre, explores how grazing industries including wool, dairy and beef are adapting to climate change.

An audio recording, a video with slides and information on the background to the seminar are below.

Professor Eckard’s research focuses on sustainable livestock production, nitrogen cycling and loss in grazing systems, with a recent focus on carbon farming and options for agriculture to respond to a changing climate.

In this seminar he explores how the climate has already changed and its implications for agriculture as many areas around the world have experienced record temperatures in 2019, with a global average temperature 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. This increase in temperature is accompanied with an increase in extreme weather events.

In Victoria, industries are likely to move in response. Wheat and dairy are moving south towards the coast where the climate is more reliable and milder, while in the north, dairy is likely to transition from irrigated pastures to more confinement, “California-style” feeding systems to insulate animals against heat, and mixed farming incorporating crops and sheep to become more common to mitigate risks from failed crops.

Professor Eckard says that while governments are lagging on climate change mitigation, much of the agricultural sector is taking a leading role in Australia and internationally in response to public and investor concerns.

He describes a ‘cascading’ effect as Australian businesses in the supply chain react to the emissions reduction targets of other multinational businesses.

“I think we’re living in a world where things are changing substantially, and that government policy is actually becoming less important than company policy [in this area],” Professor Eckard said.

“What are companies responding to? They’re responding to you as the shareholder, or the perception of your changing consumer preferences.

“So actually it’s an empowering environment rather than a disempowering one, because your consumer preference can actually have a material impact and while we spend most of our time expecting government to make policy about climate change, actually, where most of the movement could come from is from these agribusiness companies changing in response to their consumers.”

Listen to the full seminar below.

The Dean’s Research Seminars aim to showcase  the breadth, aims, importance and impact of research being undertaken across the Faculty to a non-specialist audience.

Seminar: Climate challenges facing the grazing industries, by Professor Richard Eckard

The last 20 years have seen clear increases in temperature, increased frequency of extreme weather events, more variable rainfall and a general southward movement of rainfall zones, impacting livestock through heat stress and changes in pasture growth patterns.

While politicians around the world are failing to show clear leadership on climate change, these multinational companies are managing their investment risk by setting targets for carbon neutrality by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement; this is likely to have a far bigger impact on the grazing industries than government policy.

In this Dean's Research Seminar, Professor Eckard discusses these emerging challenges for the grazing industries in a changing climate.

Professor Richard Eckard

Professor Richard Eckard
Professor Richard Eckard

Richard Eckard is Professor of Livestock Production Systems and Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences. His research focuses on sustainable livestock production, nitrogen cycling and loss in grazing systems, with a recent focus on carbon farming and options for agriculture to respond to a changing climate. He is a science advisor to the Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom governments, and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, on climate change adaptation, mitigation and carbon policy development in agriculture.

Professor Eckard leads a network within the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gasses and a member of the Greenhouse Gas and Animal Agriculture international science committee. He has published over 145 peer reviewed papers, with 80 peer-reviewed papers, seven book chapters, and 80 conference papers on climate change, carbon farming and agriculture since 2010.