Resilience of Native livestock to climate change in the context of Mongolia

A friend through DAD-Net email list commented on the pastoral livestock of Mongolia Image

in the context of climate change.

“Scientists of many countries agree that more than 60% of natural disasters occurred worldwide are associated with global climatic change. The air temperature around the surface of earth increased by 1.50C in the last 50 years but same time air temperature of Mongolia increased by 4.10C.  Therefore climate warming in Mongolia takes a place at faster rate by 3 times as compared to global warming. Climate change comes as an additional factor affecting a livestock sector that is already highly dynamic and facing many challenges.

What are adverse impacts of climatic changes and warming on animal husbandry in Mongolia?

Researchers consider that climate changes and global warming exert its effects on animal husbandry in Mongolia in the following ways:

1.      We are observing and herders are lamentably talking about that of more than 2800 plant species grown in approximately 113 million ha rangelands of our country, more than 600 species are seen to be important for animal nutrition, but species of plants edible by livestock in any provinces are decreasing in the last years, instead of them Artemisia spp and weed plants inedible by animals are prevailing, and values of pastures are declining.

2.      Number of rivers, streams, ponds and lakes, which were main sources of drinking water of rural people and animals, are drying off, ground water levels are lowering, and it exerts adverse impacts on water supply for both human populations and rangelands. For example, according to 2007 hydrological recording, 852 rivers, 2277 springs, 1181 lakes and ponds and more than mineral water sources were dried off.

3.      Extreme warming results in lowering ground water level. It has adverse impacts on water supply of both human and animals and its guarantee.  The lowering ground water level reveals the risk of drying off artisan wells and on the other hand construction of motorized wells will be more expensive.

4.      In association with warming, there has been a tendency of increasing evaporation rate of earth surface moisture and intensification of acidification. In other words, precipitation is not sufficient to compensate soil moisture loss. It exerts adverse effects on pasture production and carrying capacity.

5.      Sharp changes are occurring in annual precipitation characteristics and distributions. Although total amount of annual precipitations does not drop in most areas, scientists are proving and warning about changes of precipitation characters, distributions and effects on soil and plants. For example, during 1960-1980, drizzling rains lasted for days, rain water is absorbed deeply into soil and reached plant roots, and pasture vegetation was greater, while recent years, mostly heavy showers occur and cause flooding due to lack of absorbing rain water into soil. Precipitation becomes less in May or June, when pasture plants are intensively growing. As a consequence, real condition of revival of natural pastures with shorter period of summer and autumn seasons, and formation of sufficient reserves of pasture plants to be used for winter and spring seasons cannot be provided regularly. As well, it has been observed that more frequent snowfalls, periodical colds and snow and dust storms in winter and spring in the last years than previous years have a tendency to encompass broader areas and be common characters.

6.      In 2009 report of climatic change, there are facts about that Mongolian livestock body is becoming smaller and their productivity is reducing in the last years due to above mentioned real situations, which are adverse consequences of global climatic changes. According to survey of more than 40 meteorological stations located in various natural and climatic regions of our country, weight of native Mongolian cattle dropped by 14-19 kg, sheep and goats by 7-8 kg, and wool yield of sheep decreased by approximately 90 g, which should not be left without paying attentions. Recent years, favorable periods of summer and autumn are curtailed or last approximately 100-120 days, whereas severe winter and spring periods increased or last 220-240 days.

7.      Native Mongolian livestock populations, which are raised in pasture for all year round, are emaciated and exhausted due to the following 5 reasons:

  • a.       Pasture plant production reduces during winter and spring seasons
  • b.      Duration of grazing on the pasture decreases.
  • c.       Pasture plant nutritive values decrease.
  • d.      Pasture plant digestibility reduces.
  • e.       Feed consumption for pregnant and lactating animals increases.

Scientists demonstrated that pastoral livestock are able to eat only about 40-50% of their daily feed intake because production, digestibility and nutritive value of pasture plants, and grazing length decrease during winter and spring. On the other hand, nutritive demands (nutrients, minerals and biologically active matters) of pregnant and lactating animals increase sharply during winter and spring. Demands of nutrients, minerals and biologically active matters of pregnant and lactating animals are greater by 30-40% as compared to male animals, barren females and early pregnant animals.

8.      Extreme warming exerts adverse impacts on livestock comfortable pasture grazing. According to surveys and estimations of competent authorities and scientists it has a tendency of increasing drastically number of very hot days due to climatic changes. It means there are undesired impacts on animal welfare, body conditions and milk yields, young animal body growth and development, animal body resistance, and finally preparation of animals for wintering. Generally, summer warming above 200C has adverse effects on livestock grazing, resulting in gathering in groups, searching shadowy places, laying down and standing instead of active grazing, and therefore hindering pasture grazing of animals. Despite pasture grazing length in summer and autumn seasons is 13-14 hours; the most active grazing period is only 3-5 hours as reported by researchers. Hence it means this period will be shorter due to extreme warming in summer and autumn.

9.      In territories of any provinces and villages it is observed that lack of precipitations during summer and autumn results in drop of hay field and pasture plant productions and reduction of numbers of palatable plants with higher nutritive values and capable to be kept sufficiently in the pasture during winter and spring. In other words it means values of pasture are decreasing due to warming effects.

10.  Snowfalls during winter have been greater in the last decade and a common tendency that it will further increase, majority of annual precipitations occur in the form of snowfall during winter and spring seasons, while rain will be rare during  May and June, which are months of pasture plant active growth, is now being found.

  In conclution

 1.      Climate warming in Mongolia takes place at faster rate by 3 times as compared to global warming;

2.      Pastoral animal husbandry of Mongolia is under naturally risky situations for all year round.”

Jiige  (the nickname of Mongolian friend)

3 thoughts on “Resilience of Native livestock to climate change in the context of Mongolia”

  1. This response, I received by email from Carlos of Argentina.
    “Dear Jiige:
    Thank you very much for your very complete and sound report about climate change effects in Mongolia livestock sector. Surely, the consequences and effects can be extended to other parts of the world.
    Changes in rain and drizzle patterns have been observed in Argentina as well. In the last 2 years the main area of cropping has suffered both droughts and floods. And these are only examples of a larger phenomenon.
    More than ever, we have to work hard not only in conserving species/breeds of adapted animals to environmental conditions, but to keeping and enhancing the adaptive traits of the existing breeds to new environmental constrains.
    Best regards.

    Carlos Mezzadra
    Área de Investigación en Producción Animal
    INTA Balcarce

  2. Another comment from a friend of Egypt.
    “Dear All
    I think the effect of climate changes on livestock sector is the following:
    1- Heat stress and extreme climate events affecting directly on livestock production and physiology (and may be ON-OFF gens “e.g. EBVs will be affected also)
    2- Climate changes will affecting indirectly on livestock production via affecting on feed production, quality and availability, pastoral, disease, land& water resources

    In developing counties (especially in Arid and semi-arid area e.g. North Africa) will be the most counties whose will suffering from climate changes

    If we analyzing the components of these effects will found some practices is must like
    Improving livestock management and housing, found alternative feeding recourses, improve using the crop residuals, some effective legislation, applying genetic improvement programs to improve adaptability … etc.

    But each point has many constrains and problems to implement
    However, if I ask what the best housing and/or system in the hot and/or cold places? Or if I ask about the economical value of maintaining the local adapted breeds compared with exotic one under Arid condition like Egypt?
    Many and many questions need many searches (But need also large fund)

    From the other hand we have to assessed the effect of livestock on climate
    Mainly the Methane (from the rumen fermentation comes out from the mouth) and the handling of dung production may affecting on green house gases

    But if you asking under Arid condition what is the best type of animal or which kind of production purpose or system that demonstrate minimal effects on climate? You will not found it
    Adding to the scio-economic aspects and customer preferable need some assessment
    There are many searching point need to cover
    Also, I have many idea in this point
    Kind Regards

    Waael El-Desokey
    Research Assistant – Central Lab. for Agriculture Climate “CLAC” – Agriculture Research Center – Ministry of Agriculture & Land Reclamation – Cairo – Egypt
    Master of Animal Breeding – Faculty of Agriculture – Ain Shams Unive.
    SCAIU Statistical Data Analyst
    EAAP Trainee
    FAO Volunteer
    Tel: +201111469964

  3. Comments by Waael El-Desokey

    Let’s say the impact of Climate Changes on Earth like diabetic disease in humane affecting upon almost human organs adding to some complex effect.

    First of all there are two main things in your report is surprising me
    1- You spoke from assessment of the impact of climate changes you have, that’s mean your governorate directed the researcher to this way (i.e. first step to solve a problem been started)
    2- There are a grate effort in your country to cover almost searching point that may help to solving the problem
    In Egypt we have many challenges in the legislation echo and the governmental planning &transparency

    Any way I have some idea in your problems it may help or at least to replay to me with the correction of the knowledge
    First problem you speak about water resources and worming and the complex effect between those
    About decreasing in the water resources I think we have to improve our using of sea water and sewage water as other resources take a look on Israelis project in water and KSA project in using sea water

    About increasing the global warming it will increase plant and soil evaporation. I think if you solve the problems of water we could quiet managed this problem, also, directs you searches to using the protected cultivation to producing crops.

    Protected cultivation may also the facility to facing the extreme climate events.

    To minimizing the effect of worming on livestock production mainly on feeding (i.e. postural production and quality) you have to make some studies on the alternative plant may coping with climate worming, and implant it on the postural to improve the feed quantity, quality, and eat-ability.

    Increasing in worming may change the whole cultivation rotation (i.e. time of cultivation and compatibility of stuffs), Soil Salinity, Sea level (and its impact on ground water), Economic, and Scio-Economic aspects so it also has to study

    As a quick solution in the decreasing of livestock productivity I would like to suggest that:
    1- Change the livestock production system from extensive to be semi intensive one to meet the animal feeds requirements and make some livestock shelters to facing the extreme events of climate
    2- Directing your search effort to make comprehensive strategy to facing the upcoming complexity problems of changing in climate

    But I would like to know some about livestock physiology (seasonality, conception rate, fertility, twining rate, ovarian activity, sperms production &quality, and libido). Also, do you have any study on the impact of climate changes on animal behaviors and gene expression?

    Kind Regards

    Waael El-Desokey
    Research Assistant – Central Lab. for Agriculture Climate “CLAC” – Agriculture Research Center – Ministry of Agriculture & Land Reclamation – Cairo – Egypt
    Master of Animal Breeding – Faculty of Agriculture – Ain Shams Unive.
    SCAIU Statistical Data Analyst
    EAAP Trainee
    FAO Volunteer
    Tel: +201111469964

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