SAUKLIM: Sheep and climate change (completed)
The ecology and economy of sheep production under climate change
About the project
Sheep utilize grass forage resources in landscapes too poor to use for more intensive agricultural purposes, and sheep husbandry is a cornerstone of the economy in many rural areas of Norway. Currently some 2.1 million sheep are released each summer onto outlying pastures. The predicted climate change with more precipitation, warmer temperature, and an overall increase in variability are of an order of magnitude that several stages in the production cycle of sheep may be affected. The overall aim is to understand how climate variability affects the ecology and economy of sheep production in ecosystems differing in productivity habitat productivity (low: Setesdal Vesthei; medium high: Hardangervidda; very high: Forollhogna) and stocking rates to enable prediction of how climatic regimes can best be met by management actions. The project will perform analysis of extensive (>8 million lambs) and long-term (21 yrs) data on autumn lamb body mass and litter size from the whole of Norway coupled with (full coverage) satellite data on climate, local weather and plant development to determine the links by which climate affect sheep production. Data on grassland production of winter forage (timothy) and sales of concentrate will enable discerning also delayed effects on other stages in the production cycle. Through economic modelling within a dynamic sheep-plant framework, and knowledge from the planned analysis on any climate and stocking rate interaction, the optimal stocking rates with increased climate variability will be estimated at alpine ranges differing in habitat productivity. The project aim to end with concrete advice as to how farmers can buffer climate effects (e.g. stocking rates, birth dates, more dynamic release dates, change of breeds or winter feeding), and to understand what might be the main constraints to buffering for climate effects (e.g., limited space in barn, spring pastures etc.).
This project funded by the Research Council of Norway.
Start: 1.4.2009. End: 31.06.2012.