Three big issues for poultry industry profitability include the weather, the government and disease. Of the three, the weather may have the biggest impact over time on the poultry business. Understanding and tracking climate patterns, in fact, can help poultry producers manage risk involving the weather and the availability and price of feed-grain supplies.

“There are trackable cycles [in the climate and the weather]. Keep track of them and place your bets accordingly,” climatologist Evelyn Browning-Garriss told listeners at the Oilseed & Grain Trade Summit.

Not only are the climate and weather patterns predictable, she said, but they are now shaping up like those of the 1950s.

Back to the climate of the 1950s

Combing historical data to find the years closest to current climate patterns, Browning-Garriss says her method is 80 percent accurate in predicting climate trends. Here’s what her data indicates:

>> The Gulf Stream (due to a change in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) in 1995) is flowing faster creating a warmer Atlantic, which diverts precipitation from the Southern and the Great Plains. This increases the risk of heat waves, droughts and wildfires in the Central, Southern and Midwestern states.

“A warmer Atlantic produces stormier hurricane seasons, stormier winters and springs in the East and Midwest, and, oddly enough, drier conditions in Texas. These impacts should last for another 15 to 20 years,” she said.

>> Cooler Pacific Ocean currents (due to a change in Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) in 2006) are creating more extreme weather and severe droughts in the Western and Great Plains for the next 15 to 20 years.

The U.S. and Canada enjoyed the most benign combination of PDO and AMO in the ocean currents from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s, she said. Since 2006, however, the two oceans have combined to create dry weather in the West and Great Plains.

Managing the new climate

Pointing to a world map showing regions where drought can be expected in at least one out of five years, Browning-Garriss said, “This is the new reality.”
Producers, however, can adjust. “We had these climate conditions in the 1950s, and North America fed the world. But you cannot take water for granted,” she noted.

The changing climate’s pattern, in fact, allows producers to manage their responses.

For example, the cooler PDO tends to bring more precipitation in the Midwestern U.S., Northern China, India, Japan, Brazil, Southern Africa and Australia, and less precipitation in California and the Southern U.S., Southern China, Pakistan, North Korea, Southern Argentina, East Africa and Western Australia.

Other climate conditions, however, factor into the weather patterns, including volcanic eruptions and El Niño and La Niña events.

An El Niño event, in fact, would temporarily warm the Pacific and create more rainfall in cattle-producing regions of the U.S. Currently, weather forecasters say there are unofficial El Niño conditions and enough warm water in the Pacific to linger into March 2015, with a 60 percent chance of lasting into May. These weather conditions, combined with an unusually cool Arctic air mass, should create a cool winter in Central and Eastern North America, and a warmer winter in the Western U.S. that will also bring much needed rain to California and the Southwest. The most dramatic impact of El Niño conditions will be felt in the tropics, particularly Southeast Asia and South America.

On the other hand, a La Niña event – not forecasted at this time – would magnify the impact of a cold PDO, creating more extreme weather and drought.

Current climate patterns are not linear, but do fit into broader, longer-term climate trends. Understanding the bigger climate picture can help poultry producers manage risk involving the weather and feed-grain supplies and costs.

The Oilseed & Grain Trade Summit was hosted by HighQuest Partners and Informa Economics.