Impacts of climate change on milk production in the United States


Mauger, G.S., Bauman, Y, Nennich, T., and Salathé, E.P.  2014. Impacts of climate change on milk production in the United States. Professional Geographer, doi:10.1080/00330124.2014.921017


Climate change is likely to affect milk production because of the sensitivity of dairy cows to excessive temperature and humidity. We use downscaled climate data and county-level dairy industry data to estimate milk production losses for Holstein dairy cows in the conterminous United States. On a national level, we estimate present-day production losses of 1.9 percent relative to baseline production and project that climate impacts could increase these losses to 6.3 percent by the end of the twenty-first century. Using present-day prices, this corresponds to annual losses of $670 million per year today, rising to $2.2 billion per year by the end of the century. We also find that there is significant geographic variation in production losses and that regions currently experiencing the greatest heat-related impacts are also projected to experience the greatest additional losses with climate change. Specifically, statewide average estimates of end-of-century losses range from 0.4 percent in Washington to a 25 percent loss in annual milk production in Florida. Given that the majority of these losses occur in the summer months, this has the potential to significantly impact operations in hotter climates.