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Responding to climate variability

What is climate variability?

Climate variability is a change in the average conditions experienced in a region over a long period of time (beyond individual weather events).

Over recent decades there have been consistent changes to the climate such as warmer temperatures in both summer and winter and less predictable rainfall patterns.

It’s critical that climate variability is appropriately considered and managed in the red meat and livestock industry as it can have broad-ranging impacts, including:

  • an increase in extreme weather events
  • declining pasture quality and growth
  • reduced stream flow and water supply across southern Australia
  • reduced rainfall
  • increased risk of heat-related stress and disease on stock and crops
  • migration of pests to southern areas
  • widening abundance of exotic weeds.

How MLA is responding to climate variability

MLA is helping producers meet the challenges of climate variability through several research and development (R&D) initiatives:

Managing Climate Variability (MCV) program

MLA is a supporting partner of Managing Climate Variability (MCV), the lead R&D program in Australia for providing practical climate information and tools to help producers manage the risks and exploit opportunities resulting from a variable climate.

MCV specifically focuses on:

  • improving the accuracy of forecasting on timeframes of value for primary production
  • providing climate products, services and tools for managing climate risk
  • increasing knowledge and confidence to adopt climate risk management initiatives.

To find out more about MCV’s key priorities and current projects, visit the Climate Kelpie website.

Forewarned is Forearmed

MLA is supporting the development of climate forecasting tools that will help producers navigate seasonal variability.

The ‘Forewarned is Forearmed’ project, supported by the Australian Government’s Rural Research and Development for Profit program as part of the Managing Climate Variability program (see above), is aimed at:

  • improving seasonal forecasts
  • developing new forecasting models to predict extreme weather events in advance.

Improving forecasting tools will give producers the opportunity to prepare for these extreme events accordingly, and help with management decisions that could reduce financial losses.

Multiple prototype forecasting tools are being developed under the project, with the first products expected to be released on the Bureau of Meteorology website in early 2021.

More information on the project can be accessed on the Bureau of Meteorology’s Forewarned is Forearmed page.


The Australian red meat and livestock industry has set the ambitious target of being carbon neutral by 2030 (CN30). This means that Australian beef, lamb and goat production, including lot feeding and meat processing, will make no net release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by 2030.

Initiatives such as CN30 are crucial as they:

  • demonstrate the industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship
  • enable trust and ongoing support of red meat production
  • underpin Australia’s position as a responsible producer of high value, clean, safe and natural protein.

Find out more information on CN30’s benefits for industry and achievements to date.

National Livestock Methane Program

From 2012–2015, MLA coordinated a national collaborative research program to develop practical options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production – the National Livestock Methane Program (NLMP).

The NLMP had three main objectives:

  1. Develop practical on-farm options to achieve a significant reduction in methane emissions from livestock
  2. Quantify the level of abatement achievable while at the same time increasing productivity
  3. Provide the science to underpin methodologies developed under the Emission Reduction Fund.

Findings from the NLMP are published in More meat, milk and wool.