What might climate change mean for farmers in Lancaster County?
Well, both dairy and poultry farmers may benefit in some ways, according to a team of researchers from Penn State and federal agencies.
Warmer conditions envisioned over the rest of the century in the northeastern United States could mean lower heating bills for poultry farmers from fall through spring.
And, depending on the crop, increased temperatures will extend the growing season, according to research published recently in Climatic Change.
The study looked at the impacts of generally warmer and wetter conditions expected to result from global warming.
These conditions may also reduce maintenance costs for beef cattle and increase the amount of time livestock can graze in fields.
But there also are problems associated with the changing conditions, noted Alex Hristov, lead researcher and a professor of dairy nutrition in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
Predicted temperature changes may decrease fertility in dairy cattle and heat stress-induced inflammation and decreased feed intake may limit energy available for producing milk, the researchers warned.
Horse owners may have to provide more buildings to cool animals and even more precautions at equine events.
Diseases may find more favorable environments. “Uncertainties about how host animals, pathogens and disease vectors will respond to climate change are the wild card in predicting the effect of climate-induced changes in animal agriculture in the region,” Hristov said.
And with increased 2- and 3-inch rain events predicted, more manure may run off fields, polluting local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.