MANHATTAN, Kan., Nov. 19 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve studied fecal matter from thousands of cattle across the nation to determine the possible effects of climate change on livestock.
Kansas State University Assistant Professor Joseph Craine, Associate Professor K.C. Olson and colleagues compared grasslands and pastureland in different regions in the U.S, gathering data from more than 21,000 different fecal samples collected during a 14-year period.
The samples were analyzed at the Texas A&M University’s Grazingland Animal Nutrition Lab for nutritional content.
“Owing to the complex interactions among climate, plants, cattle grazing and land management practices, the impacts of climate change on cattle have been hard to predict,” said Craine, who led the study.
He said the lab measured the amount of crude protein and digestible organic matter retained by cattle in the different regions. Craine said the pattern of forage quality observed across regions suggests a warmer climate would limit protein availability to grazing animals.
“This study assumes nothing about patterns of future climate change; it’s just ‘a what if?’ ” Olson said. “What if there was significant atmosphere enrichment of carbon dioxide? What would it likely do to plant phenology? If there is atmospheric carbon dioxide enrichment, the length of time between when a plant begins to grow and when it reaches physiological maturity may be condensed.”
The research and the findings appear in the journal Global Change Biology.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International