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Motivation

Adaptation to climate change under diminishing (and therefore increasingly variable) rainfall scenarios requires livestock breeders to find strategies for coping with periods when forage supply is critically limited.

Livestock breeders must choose between fixed stocking rates to minimise risk of loss in drought on the one hand and opportunistic selling as an alternative to bearing high mortality in drought on the other. They must also determine how access to forage is constrained by the availability of drinking water and other constraints on range use, choose what resources to use in which season, and when and how much supplementation is required.

Policy analysis of this type can be conducted using the SimSAGS Decision Support System devised under this LPP program. SimSAGS models the effects of climatic and spatial variation on livestock systems. Its strengths lie in its adaptability, over a very wide geographical zone, as a decision support simulation tool in application to real world scenarios. The user can specify a wide range of inputs, such as land type and area, rainfall, and livestock management policy, then run the simulation for a given number of years. The model simulates animal population dynamics from vegetation biomass dynamics, which is driven by soil type and daily rainfall data. Spatial heterogeneity is represented by a chosen number and size of cells in a grid. For each cell, soil, vegetation and altitude can be specified, and water points can be located.

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