Impact of climate change on livestock production

Lance H. Baumgard, Robert P. Rhoads, Michelle L. Rhoads, Nicholas K. Gabler, Jason W. Ross, Aileen F. Keating, Rebbeca L. Boddicker, Sangeeta Lenka, Veerasamy Sejian

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

67 Scopus citations


Livestock production is the world's dominant land use, covering about 45% of the Earth's land surface, and much of it in harsh and variable environments that are unsuitable for other purposes. Climate change (CC) can impact the amount and quality of produce, reliability of production, and the natural resource base on which livestock production depends. Climate is an important factor of agricultural productivity and CC is expected to severely impact livestock production systems. Furthermore, global demand for animal protein will rise as populations become more affluent and eating habits change. Therefore, animal production plays (and will continue to do so) a key role in the food supply chain. While the increasing demand for livestock products offers market opportunities and income for small, marginal, and landless farmers, livestock production globally faces increasing pressure because of negative environmental implications, particularly because of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Agriculture is one sector which is important to consider as it both impacts CC as well as is influenced by CC. Higher temperatures, potentially caused by GHG, would likely result in a decline in dairy production, reduced animal weight gain, reproduction, and lower feed-conversion efficiency in warm regions. Incidence of diseases among livestock and other animals are likely to be affected by CC, since most diseases are transmitted by vectors such as ticks and flies (development stages of ticks and flies are often dependent on ambient temperature). Cattle, goat, horses, and sheep are also vulnerable to an extensive range of nematode worm infections, most of which have their development stages influenced by climatic conditions. CC will have far-reaching consequences for dairy, meat, and wool production systems that rely primarily on grass and rangelands and this will likely detrimentally affect vulnerable pastoral communities which are engaged in extensive livestock production systems in drylands. Although the direct effects of CC on animals are likely to be small (as long as temperature increases do not exceed 3°C), CC will affect animals indirectly through physiological stress and thermoregulatory control, nutrition, and disease stress. Because livestock products are an incredibly important human food, and because animal farming is a significant source of income for millions of farmers, it is necessary to identify CC mitigation strategies and solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEnvironmental Stress and Amelioration in Livestock Production
PublisherSpringer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg
Number of pages56
ISBN (Electronic)9783642292057
ISBN (Print)3642292046, 9783642292040
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Disease
  • Epigenetics
  • Heat stress
  • Metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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