Australian farmers are among the world’s most innovative and efficient. We have to be, with frequent droughts driving us to take full advantage of better times in between.
Globally, 2016 was the hottest year on record for the third year running. Dairying is especially heat sensitive, and as Australia’s fourth-most valuable agricultural export (at almost $13 billion) what impacts dairy, impacts Australia.
The impacts on farm are two-fold: on our livestock, with milk production dropping in hot weather; and then on our grass which struggles to thrive in the longer, hotter, drier summers.
Farmers are adapting, but we’re struggling to stay ahead of the changes in our climate. To establish new crops takes time – something in short supply when, for three successive years, we’re breaking heat records.
Developing infrastructure to protect our cows takes time, too, but also money – a scarce resource when we’re already struggling to recover from challenging seasons.
Governments must help farmers adapt and invest in research to accelerate change in farming practices. Governments must also acknowledge the changes that are taking place in our climate.
They must recognise the challenges farmers face because of climate change, and surely must understand that without its farmers, Australia will suffer.
The impact of longer, hotter, drier seasons will touch all of us in one way or another, whether through increasing food prices, increasing food imports, or even the shared burden of increasing social security for farmers who can no longer afford to adapt and, therefore, can no longer farm.
Now is the time to unite, find practical solutions and help farmers adapt because this issue isn’t going away.
Karrinjeet Singh-Mahil runs 280 cows on a 370-acre dairy farm near Crossley in south-west Victoria with husband Brian.