Climate change presents a range of challenges for animal agriculture in Australia. Livestock production will be affected by changes in temperature and water availability through impacts on pasture and forage crop quantity and quality, feed-grain production and price, and disease and pest distributions. This paper provides an overview of these impacts and the broader effects on landscape functionality, with a focus on recent research on effects of increasing temperature, changing rainfall patterns, and increased climate variability on animal health, growth, and reproduction, including through heat stress, and potential adaptation strategies. The rate of adoption of adaptation strategies by livestock producers will depend on perceptions of the uncertainty in projected climate and regional-scale impacts and associated risk. However, management changes adopted by farmers in parts of Australia during recent extended drought and associated heatwaves, trends consistent with long-term predicted climate patterns, provide some insights into the capacity for practical adaptation strategies.
Animal production systems will also be significantly affected by climate change policy and national targets to address greenhouse gas emissions, since livestock are estimated to contribute ∼10% of Australia’s total emissions and 8–11% of global emissions, with additional farm emissions associated with activities such as feed production. More than two-thirds of emissions are attributed to ruminant animals. This paper discusses the challenges and opportunities facing livestock industries in Australia in adapting to and mitigating climate change. It examines the research needed to better define practical options to reduce the emissions intensity of livestock products, enhance adaptation opportunities, and support the continued contribution of animal agriculture to Australia’s economy, environment, and regional communities.