Regional Climate and Production Systems

Historical Climate and Production Capacity

This region includes the Cariboo Regional District, much of which is high, rolling plateau with mountain ranges on its east and west boundaries. Due to the size and diverse topography of the region, it has many microclimates. The climate is generally warm and dry in the summer. Winters are cold, with low to moderate precipitation, ranging from 250-630 millimeters annually. Both soils and a lack of moisture are limiting factors for agriculture in much of the region. Areas with better river bench soils can produce high quality forage, as well as root vegetables and potatoes. Some valley soils have high clay content but, with careful management, can produce a range of forage and field crops. Most agricultural land is located along Highway 97, following the Fraser River, and along Highway 20 East, following the Chilcotin River, to Alexis Creek. In 2017, about 936,000 hectares were included in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Download the Cariboo Adaptation Plan

Agricultural production

In 2016, the Cariboo region had 919 farms – 5% of the farms in BC. Farms range in size from a few acres to more than 3,000 acres. Beef cattle operations make up about one-quarter of the agricultural sector in the region. Forage crops make up almost all of the total cropped area. Crown range provides about 40% of the annual forage needs of the ranching industry. Livestock production in the region includes dairy, sheep, horses and poultry. A diversity of horticultural crops, including berries and vegetables, are also grown in the region.

Top Issues in the Cariboo

Projections provided by the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium were shared during the regional planning process where producers discussed how the anticipated changes would likely affect their operations. Then they identified four climate issues as their top concerns. Many of these projects are a direct response to the adaptation strategies and top issues outlined in the Cariboo Adaptation Strategies plan. The projects are developed by CCAP with oversight and input from a regional working group. Other projects deliver applied research that supports climate change adaptation at the farm level. These 2-4 year projects fall under the Farm Adaptation Innovator Program.

Producers in the Cariboo are experiencing warmer and drier summers that are reducing water supply while increasing the water requirements for crops and livestock. Additionally, increased precipitation in the winter and spring may lead to flooding, runoff and erosion. A number of agricultural properties in the region were impacted by flooding in both summer of 2019 and spring of 2020.

Related Resources:

Enhancing Agricultural Dams in the Cariboo

Climate-Resilient Livestock Surface Water in the Cariboo

Impacts of Management-Intensive Grazing on Soil Health

Ponds for Livestock Water

Climate change is contributing to an increase in the number and severity of wildfires in the Cariboo region. The region has experienced many significant wildfire seasons in the past decade, including 2009, 2010 and 2012. These were followed by the record-breaking wildfire seasons of 2017 and 2018, during which about 1.1 million hectares of land in the region were burned.

Related Resources:

Opportunities and Barriers to Mitigating Wildfire Risk

Fuel Management in the Agricultural-Wildland Interface

Wildfire Preparedness for the Farm and Ranch

Reduce Wildfire Threat to Farm Assets

Farm/Ranch Wildfire Guide and Workbook

Producers in the Cariboo ranked increasing variability as one of the biggest challenges they face. Of particular concern for producers are increasingly unpredictable storm events, freeze/thaw cycles and temperature/precipitation fluctuations or extremes.

Related Resources:

Applied Agricultural Research in the Cariboo

Cariboo Research Extension Resources

Using Plastic Films To Impact Microclimates

Extending the Greenhouse Growing Season in the Cariboo

As the climate changes, pest populations are also shifting. During 2014 planning workshops, Cariboo producers identified a number of emerging agricultural pests of concern, including fire ants, cutworms and the grey tortrix moth. The Cariboo region landscape has also been significantly affected by mountain pine beetle outbreaks. This is partly due to a reduction in extremely cold winter temperatures.

Related Resources:

Priority Pests in the Cariboo-Chilcotin

Agricultural Pest Identification and Management Tools for the Cariboo

The ecological communities and water resources on Cariboo rangelands are shifting, which is altering forage productivity. Producers are also noticing changes in wildlife populations and distribution.

Regional Projects