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Context is critical: Dairy farmers responding to climate variability

  • Year: 2013
  • Author: Rowbottom, B and Linehan, C
  • Journal Name: Water and Climate: Policy Implementation Challenges; Proceedings of the 2nd Practical Responses to Climate Change Conference
  • Publisher: Engineers Australia
  • Published Location: Barton, A.C.T.
  • ISBN: 9780858259119
  • Country: Australia

Seasonal, structural and market conditions during the last decade led to unprecedented changes being made by Australian dairy farmers. To remain relevant to dairy farmers, industry and government must ensure future policies and programs are informed by an understanding of farmers' needs. Semi-structured, face-to-face, qualitative interviews were conducted with dairy farmers in the Murray irrigation, Murray Lakes and Yarram regions of south eastern Australia. From interviews we developed an understanding of the reasons why farmers made particular changes to their farms in response to the 2001 to 2011 drought.


We allocated farmers into five market segments according to aspects of their farm context and the benefit they received from adopting different innovations in response to drought. The key aspect of farm context that influenced dairy farmers' response to drought was the restriction of access to limiting resources, which varied between farms. Access to irrigation water was the critical contextual factor in the Murray Irrigation Region. Rainfall and access to irrigation, stock and domestic water were the key limiting resources from Yarram and Murray Lakes farmers. Farmers' ability to access limiting resources influenced the type of change required on farms. Interview data was used to develop recommendations on how dairy industry and government support services might assist dairy farmers in any region of Australia to adapt to drought or climate variability in the future.

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