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To predict the impact of climate change on our beef animals and systems, we need a better understanding of how beef cattle traits are affected by varying weather and frequency of extreme events. We analysed the effect of minimum and maximum temperatures and average daily precipitation on a range of important carcass traits, including age at slaughter, cold carcass weight, carcass growth rate and conformation and fat score (N = >1.6 million), as well as calf 200-day live weight and growth rate (N = >270 000), using data from abattoirs across Britain (carcass traits) and calves in Scottish suckler beef herds (live weights and growth). Animals which experienced higher daily maximum and minimum temperatures had slower carcass and calf growth rates. Increased precipitation also led to poorer cold carcass weights, conformation scores, calf 200-day weights and calf growth. We also analysed the effect of frequency of extreme weather events, including heatwaves, cold waves, and dry and wet days. The frequency of heatwaves, dry and wet days were shown to have significant negative effects on almost all traits considered, for example, predicting that an increase in the frequency of heatwaves by 1 day per 100 days of life would reduce cold carcass weights by about 200 g and increase age at slaughter by about 3 days. Results show that varying weather and frequency of extreme weather, across the lifetime of a beef animal, influences traits which affect the potential profit for a beef farmer. These effects may be due to several factors, including direct effects on the animal, as well as feed availability and management decisions made by the farmer. However, there is potential to mitigate negative effects through a range of animal management strategies.
|Early online date||14 Oct 2022|
|Publication status||Print publication - Nov 2022|
- Heat stress
- Extreme weather
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