Effect of Heat Waves on Animals

An aspect of climate change is an increase in severe weather. Significant heat events since the mid 1990s appear to be increasing and have resulted in sizable human and animal mortality. Hahn and Mader (1997), Xin and Puma (2001) and Hahn et al. (2000, 2002) described the impact on livestock from a week long heat wave in the mid-central United States during July 1995: the heat wave also resulted in a significant number of human deaths. That heat wave was estimated to have cost the US cattle industry $28 million in animal deaths and reduced livestock performance. In Iowa over 1.8 million laying hens died during this heat wave. In July 1999, a heat wave in Nebraska was responsible for 3,000 cattle deaths and over $20 million in economic loss (http://hpccsun.unl.edu/nebraska/owh-july31.html). In Australia, a heat wave in 2000 resulted in the death of 24 people and over 2,000 cattle. Poultry losses were estimated to exceed 15,000. Horses and dogs also died during this event. During the heat wave which occurred in Europe during summer 2003, over 35,000 people, thousands of pigs, poultry and rabbits died in the French regions of Brittany and Pays-de-la-Loire (http://lists.envirolink.org/pipermail/ar-news/Week-of-Mon-20030804/004707.html). In 2004 during an Australian heat wave over 900 cattle died. In 2006, a major heat wave moved across the USA and Canada. This heat wave resulted in the death of over 15 pets (not defined), 225 people, 25,000 cattle, and 700,000 poultry in California alone. Heat waves in Europe in 2006 and 2007 resulted in the deaths of more than 2000 people. However the number of animal deaths could not be established. Over 800 peacocks died during a heat wave in India in 2007. It is likely that without some form of intervention, either in terms of management or genetic change (via selection for heat tolerance), significant animal deaths will occur during future heat waves. These losses could be significantly greater if the predicted increase in the intensity and duration of heat waves is realized.

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