Grazing season length (GSL) on grassland farms with ruminant production systems can influence farm economics, livestock disease transmission, environmental impact, milk and meat quality, and consumer choice. Bioclimatic variables are biologically meaningful climate variables that may enable predictions of the impact of future climate change on GSL on European farms. The present study investigated the spatial relationship between current GSL (months) measured by EUROSTAT on dairy, beef and sheep farms in 706, 774 and 878 regions, respectively, and bioclimatic variables. A stepwise multiple regression model revealed a highly significant association between observed GSL and bioclimatic variables across Europe. Mean GSL was positively associated with the mean temperature of the coldest quarter and isothermality, and negatively associated with precipitation in the wettest month. Extrapolating these relationships to future climate change scenarios, most European countries were predicted to have a net increase in GSL with the increase being largest (up to 2·5 months) in the north-east of Europe. However, there were also predictions of increased variability between regions and decreases in GSL of up to 1·5 months in some areas such as the west of France, the south-west of Norway and the west coast of Britain. The study quantified and mapped the potential impact of climate change on GSL for dairy, beef and sheep farms across Europe.
Phelan, P., Morgan, E. R., Rose, H., Grant, J., & O'Kiely, P. (2015). Predictions of future grazing season length for European dairy, beef and sheep farms based on regression with bioclimatic variables. Journal of Agricultural Science. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021859615000830