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CR 53:55-61 (2012)  -  DOI:

Infield grass production at northern latitudes: farmers’ adaptations to climate change

Atle Mysterud1,*, Anders Nielsen1, Øystein Holand2

1Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern,
0316 Oslo, Norway
2Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, PO Box 5025, 1430 Ås, Norway

ABSTRACT: Livestock production at northern latitudes involves many stages that each can be affected by climate change. The infields around the farms are typically used for producing grass for winter fodder. We analysed a unique dataset from the Norwegian dairy farmers association (TINE) from 1993 to 2009 on timing of the 1st infield harvest, the proportion of multiple harvests in a season, and the quality of the harvest in terms of protein content. We selected data from farmers using Setesdal (n = 4475), Hardangervidda (n = 658) and Forollhogna (n = 2719) in Norway as their outfield alpine summer ranges. Average timing of the 1st harvest became earlier in all areas over the last 2 decades, but more so in the northernmost area (Forollhogna). This allowed an increase in the proportion of farmers with a 2nd infield harvest in the north (Forollhogna) and a 3rd harvest in the south (Setesdal), but with no change in the middle (Hardangervidda). Timing of the 1st harvest was not related to May temperatures but was marginally earlier when previous winter conditions were mild and there was little snow (high value of the North Atlantic Oscillation), except for Hardangervidda. The quality of the 1st harvest showed no clear pattern of development over time. Our study quantifies how farmers are adapting to climate change by timing their infield harvest to an earlier arrival of spring. We highlight the necessity of considering all stages of the production cycle of livestock when assessing the effect of climate change at northern latitudes.

KEY WORDS: Climate · Sheep · Livestock · Infield · Grass production · Phenology

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Cite this article as: Mysterud A, Nielsen A, Holand Ø (2012) Infield grass production at northern latitudes: farmers’ adaptations to climate change. Clim Res 53:55-61.

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