Estimating climate change effects on grazing management and beef cattle production in the Pacific Northwest


Climate change studies consistently conclude that the Pacific Northwest (PNW) will increase in temperature with the greatest change occurring as hotter summer temperatures, precipitation becomes more uncertain with projections for wetter winters and drier summers, a decline in snowpack and an increase in wildfire risk. These impacts on rangeland and pastures affect forage growth and the timing of forage availability for grazing, affecting stocking rates, turn-out dates, and end of grazing gather dates. The magnitude of projected climate change will be dynamic year to year which adds significant challenges to implementing effective grazing management plans. The PNW has about 1.3 million head of beef cows that are the primary grazing resource users. Cow-calf producers’ production costs will increase to offset climate change impacts, but PNW cattle producers have an economic comparative advantage to other regions more negatively impacted by climate change such as the Southwest. The PNW is projected to have lower drought risk and the PNW’s extensive irrigation system can produce feedstuffs to offset drought-reduced grazing resources.

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Correspondence to J. Shannon Neibergs.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on ‘ Vulnerability Assessment of US Agriculture and Forests developed by the USDA Climate Hubs’ edited by Jerry L. Hatfield, Rachel Steele, Beatrice van Horne, and William Gould.

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Neibergs, J.S., Hudson, T.D., Kruger, C.E. et al. Estimating climate change effects on grazing management and beef cattle production in the Pacific Northwest. Climatic Change 146, 5–17 (2018).

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