Pasture diversification to combat climate change impacts on grazing dairy production

  • M. Melissa Rojas-Downing
  • A. Pouyan Nejadhashemi
  • Mohammad Abouali
  • Fariborz Daneshvar
  • Sabah Anwer Dawood Al Masraf
  • Matthew R. Herman
  • Timothy Harrigan
  • Zhen Zhang
Original Article


Among livestock systems, grazing is likely to be most impacted by climate change because of its dependency to feed quality and availability. In order to reduce the impact of climate change on grazing livestock systems, adaptation measures should be implemented. The goal of this study is to identify the best pasture composition for a representative grazing dairy farm in Michigan in order to reduce the impacts of climate change on production. In order to achieve the goal of this study, three objectives were sought: (1) identify the best pasture composition, (2) assess economic and resource use impacts of pasture compositions under future climate scenarios, and (3) evaluate the resiliency of pasture compositions. A representative farm was developed based on a livestock practices survey and incorporated into the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM). For the pasture compositions, four cool-season grass species and two legumes were evaluated under both current and future climate scenarios. The effectiveness of adaptation measures based on economic and resource use criteria was evaluated. Overall, the pasture composition with 50% perennial ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) and 50% red clover (Trifolium pratense) was identified as the best. In addition, the increase in precipitation and temperature of the most intensive climate scenario could significantly improve farm net return per cow (Bos taurus) and whole farm profit while no significant impact was observed on resource use criteria. Finally, the overall sensitivity assessment showed that the most resilient pasture composition under future climate scenarios was ryegrass with red clover and the least resilient was orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata) with white clover (Trifolium repens).


Climate change Grazing Dairy Adaptation Pasture Economic IFSM 



This work is supported by the US Department of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project MICL02359.

Supplementary material

11027_2017_9740_MOESM1_ESM.docx (7.2 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 7358 kb)


  1. Adhikari U, Nejadhashemi AP, Woznicki SA (2015) Climate change and eastern Africa: a review of impact on major crops. Food Energy Secur 4:110–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aschmann S, Cropper JB (2007) Profitable grazing-based dairy systems. Range and pasture technical note no. 1, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of AgricultureGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker TJ, Miller SN (2013) Using the soil and water assessment tool (SWAT) to assess land use impact on water resources in an east African watershed. J Hydrol 486:100–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barnes RF, Nelson CJ, Moore KJ, Collins M (2007) Forages: an introduction to grassland agriculture, 6th edn. Iowa State Press, A Blackwell Publishing Company, AmesGoogle Scholar
  5. Batima P, Bat B, Tserendash L et al (2005) Adaptation to climate change. ADMON Publishing, UlaanbaatarGoogle Scholar
  6. Birhanu B, Ndomba P, Mtalo F (2007) Application of SWAT model for mountainous catchment. Catchment Lake Res 06:182–187Google Scholar
  7. Bradley N (2007) The response surface methodology. Indiana University of South BendGoogle Scholar
  8. Bryant JR, Snow VO (2008) Modelling pastoral farm agro-ecosystems: a review. New Zeal J Agric Res 51:349–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Calvosa C, Chuluunbaatar D, Fara K (2009) Livestock and climate change. Livest Themat Pap - Tools Proj Des 20Google Scholar
  10. Cassida K, Paling J, Kapp C (2014) 2014 Michigan forage variety test report. Michigan State University Extension, Forage Factsheet #15–01. East Lansing, MichiganGoogle Scholar
  11. Corson MS, Alan Rotz C, Howard Skinner R, Sanderson MA (2007) Adaptation and evaluation of the integrated farm system model to simulate temperate multiple-species pastures. Agric Syst 94:502–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) (2016) Climate change: basic information. In: Clim. Chang. Div. Cited 23 Feb 2016
  13. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) (2010) Climate-smart agriculture: policies, practices and financing for food security, adaptation and mitigation. Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  14. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2009) Global agriculture towards 2050. Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  15. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2016) Milk production. In: Dairy Prod. Prod. Cited 25 March 2016
  16. Fisher R (1935) The design of experiments. Oliver and Boyd, EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  17. Garnett T (2009) Livestock-related greenhouse gas emissions: impacts and options for policy makers. Environ Sci Pol 12:491–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gauly M, Bollwein H, Breves G et al (2013) Future consequences and challenges for dairy cow production systems arising from climate change in Central Europe—a review. Animal 7:843–859CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Graux AI, Bellocchi G, Lardy R, Soussana JF (2013) Ensemble modelling of climate change risks and opportunities for managed grasslands in France. Agric For Meteorol 170:114–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Griffin TS (2004) Growing forage legumes in Maine. In: Bull. #2261, Univ. Maine Coop. Ext. Cited 16 March 2016
  21. Hatfield J, Takle G, Grotjahn R, Holden P, Izaurralde RC, Mader T, Marshall E, Liverman D (2014) Ch. 6: Agriculture. Climate change impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, Melillo JM, Richmond TC, Yohe GW (Eds.), U.S. Global Change Research Program, 150–174Google Scholar
  22. Heckman E, Hinds S, Johnson K, Perkins J (2007) Management-intensive grazing in Indiana. Indiana, U.SGoogle Scholar
  23. Heinrichs AJ, Ishler VA, Adams RS (1996) Feeding and managing dry cows. Extension circular 372. The Pennsylvania State University, PennsylvaniaGoogle Scholar
  24. Herrero M, Thornton PK, Notenbaert A, et al. (2012) Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts on agro-ecosystems services and human wellbeing to 2030. A study Comm by CGIAR Syst Livest Program Nairobi, Kenya ILRI 1–114Google Scholar
  25. Hoglind M, Thorsen SM, Semenov MA (2013) Assessing uncertainties in impact of climate change on grass production in northern Europe using ensembles of global climate models. Agric For Meteorol 170:103–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2013) Climate change 2013: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, USAGoogle Scholar
  27. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2014) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part a: global and Sectoral aspects. In: Field CB, Barros VR, Dokken DJ, Mach KJ, Mastrandrea MD, Bilir TE, Chatterjee M, Ebi KL, Estrada YO, Genova RC, Girma B, Kissel ES, Levy AN, MacCracken S, Mastrandrea PR, White LL (eds) Contribution of working group II to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1132 pp.Google Scholar
  28. Ishler V, Heinrichs J, Varga G (1996) From feed to milk: understanding rumen function. Extension circular 422. The Pennsylvania State University, PennsylvaniaGoogle Scholar
  29. Jeong J, Williams JR, Rossi CG et al (2015) Development of the spatial rainfall generator (SRGEN) for the agricultural policy/environmental extender model. JAWRA J Am Water Resour Assoc 51:154–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kalaugher E, Bornman JF, Clark A, Beukes P (2013) An integrated biophysical and socio-economic framework for analysis of climate change adaptation strategies: the case of a New Zealand dairy farming system. Environ Model Softw 39:176–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kriegl T, McNair R (2005) Pastures of plenty: financial performance of Wisconsin grazing dairy farms. University of Wisconsin-Madison, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  32. Kurukulasuriya P, Rosenthal S (2003) Climate change and agriculture: a review of impacts and adaptations. Clim. Chang. Ser. Pap. No. 91, World Bank, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  33. Lacefield G (2013) Red and white clover. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, KentuckyGoogle Scholar
  34. Luo Y, Zhang M (2009) Management-oriented sensitivity analysis for pesticide transport in watershed-scale water quality modeling using SWAT. Environ Pollut 157:3370–3378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. MacFarlane AW (1990) Field experience with new pasture cultivars in Canterbury. Proc New Zeal Grassl Assoc 52:139–143Google Scholar
  36. Melillo JM, Richmond T, Yohe GW (2014) Climate change impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research ProgramGoogle Scholar
  37. Moore AD, Ghahramani A (2013) Climate change and broadacre livestock production across southern Australia. 1. Impacts of climate change on pasture and livestock productivity, and on sustainable levels of profitability. Glob Chang Biol 19:1440–1455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nardone A, Ronchi B, Lacetera N et al (2010) Effects of climate changes on animal production and sustainability of livestock systems. Livest Sci 130:57–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nejadhashemi AP, Wardynski BJ, Munoz JD (2012) Large-scale hydrologic modeling of the Michigan and Wisconsin agricultural regions to study impacts of land use changes. Trans ASABE 55:821–838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nott S (2003) Evolution of dairy grazing in the 1990’s. Department of Agricultural Economics Staff Paper No. 2003–07, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MichiganGoogle Scholar
  41. Oweis TY (2008) Improving agricultural water productivity: a necessary response to water scarcity and climate change in dry areas. In: Rowlinson P, Steele M, Nefzaoui A (eds) Proceedings of livestock and global change, an international conference, Hammamet, Tunisia, 17–20 May 2008Google Scholar
  42. PCMDI (Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison) (2015) CMIP5 coupled model intercomparison project. In: WCRP (World Clim. Res. Program. Cited 12 Jan 2016
  43. Polley HW, Briske DD, Morgan JA et al (2013) Climate change and north American rangelands: trends, projections, and implications. Rangel Ecol Manag 66:493–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rayburn EB (2007) Forage utilization for pasture-based livestock production. Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service (NRAES), New YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. Rayburn EB (2008) Animal production systems for pasture-based livestock production. Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service (NRAES), New YorkGoogle Scholar
  46. Rojas-Downing MM (2013) Resource use and conservation and environmental impacts in the transition from confinement to pasture-based dairies. M.Sc. Thesis, Michigan State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  47. Rotz CA (2004) The integrated farm system model: a tool for developing more economically and environmentally sustainable farming systems for the Northeast. In: NABEC. 2004 Northeast Agricultural and Biological Engineering Conference Sponsored by ASAE, pp 4–22Google Scholar
  48. Rotz CA, Corson MS, Chianese DS, et al. (2014) The integrated farm system model - Reference Manual - Version 4.2. Pasture systems and watershed management research unit, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of AgricultureGoogle Scholar
  49. Rowlinson P (2008) Adapting livestock production systems to climate change: temperate zones. In: Rowlinson P, Steel M, Nefzaoui A (eds) Livestock and global change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 61–63Google Scholar
  50. Shrestha S, Abdalla M, Hennessy T et al (2015) Irish farms under climate change—is there a regional variation on farm responses? J Agric Sci 153:385–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sullivan K, DeClue R, Emmick D (2000) Prescribed grazing and feeding management for lactating dairy cows. USDA-NRCS, SyracuseGoogle Scholar
  52. Thornton PK, van de Steeg J, Notenbaert A, Herrero M (2009) The impacts of climate change on livestock and livestock systems in developing countries: a review of what we know and what we need to know. Agric Syst 101:113–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Thrasher B, Maurer EP, McKellar C, Duffy PB (2012) Technical note: bias correcting climate model simulated daily temperature extremes with quantile mapping. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 16:3309–3314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. United Dairy Industry of Michigan (2016) Dairy Facts. Cited 02 April 2016
  55. USDA NASS (2014a) 2012 Census of agriculture—Michigan State and County DataGoogle Scholar
  56. USDA NASS (2014b) Cropland data layer. In: Michigan Pasturel. Cited 18 Oct 2015
  57. USDA NASS (2014c) Milk cows and production: final estimates 2008–2012. Cows and Production - Final Estimates, 2008–12.pdf. Cited 05 April 2016
  58. USDA-ARS (United States Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Research Service) (2014) Integrated farm system model. In: Pasture Syst. Watershed Mgt. Res. Unit. Cited 29 Oct 2015
  59. Wachendorf M, Golinski P (2006) Towards sustainable intensive dairy farming in Europe. Grassl Sci Eur 11:159–174Google Scholar
  60. Wallis TWR, Griffiths JF (1995) An assessment of the weather generator (WXGEN) used in the erosion/productivity impact calculator (EPIC). Agric For Meteorol 73:115–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wilson T (2007) Perceptions, practices, principles and policies in provision of livestock–water in Africa. Agr Water Manage 90:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Woznicki SA, Nejadhashemi AP (2012) Sensitivity analysis of best management practices under climate change scenarios. JAWRA J Am Water Resour Assoc 48:90–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Woznicki SA, Pouyan Nejadhashemi A (2014) Assessing uncertainty in best management practice effectiveness under future climate scenarios. Hydrol Process 28:2550–2566CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Melissa Rojas-Downing
    • 1
  • A. Pouyan Nejadhashemi
    • 1
  • Mohammad Abouali
    • 1
  • Fariborz Daneshvar
    • 1
  • Sabah Anwer Dawood Al Masraf
    • 1
  • Matthew R. Herman
    • 1
  • Timothy Harrigan
    • 1
  • Zhen Zhang
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biosystems and Agricultural EngineeringMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Physical Sciences Division, Department of StatisticsUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations