Heat stress could be a problem for livestock living outdoors under climate change

By Ricky Robertson (IFPRI)

Cattle grazing in Bahia Blanca, Argentina.   Credit: Milo Mitchell / International Food Policy Research Institute / 2014

Cattle grazing in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. Credit: Milo Mitchell (IFPRI), 2014.

It began with an innocent enquiry: do we have relative humidity data, under climate change for possible future situations, that could be used to think about a direct effect on animal productivity?

Currently, in our economic modeling, the cattle, hogs, chickens, etc., are only indirectly affected by changes in feed/fodder prices when those are affected by climate change. But, we are not capturing any direct effect from hot animals.

We would like to end up with global maps of some index that can tell us something about the stress that animals would experience under typical conditions at each place on the map.

The problem, of course, is that the climate data we normally use for crop modeling do not include relative humidity. That is not quite right: some of the raw data do, but not in the data we have cleaned up and arranged for using in the crop models. In order to try to keep things internally consistent, we would like to build up a rough approximation based on what we do have.

Read more on IFPRI's Climate Change blog.