New Zealand is heading towards much warmer summers by the end of the century, along with more extremes in terms of heatwaves and short deluges.
Researchers at the University of Western Australia have found that dwarf cattle breeds are better adapted to high temperatures, and say the findings are important for developing climate-ready cattle.
Lead researcher Dr Muhammed Elayadeth-Meethal said the study showed for the first time that dwarf breeds of cattle use different heat tolerance mechanisms than standard cattle breeds, making them better adapted to hotter climates.
“Standard size cattle breeds can acclimatise in the short term to higher temperatures but reach their tolerance limit under prevailing tropical conditions, while the dwarf breeds are genetically adapted to the warmer climate,” he said.
The study included Vechur cows, which are the smallest breed of cattle, averaging 50 - 130kg and 61 - 90cm respectively. They are valued for the large amount of milk they produce relative to the amount of food required.