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)