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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 08 May 2019

Research article | 08 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD).

Heat stress risk in European dairy cattle husbandry under different climate change scenarios – uncertainties and potential impacts

Sabrina Hempel1, Christoph Menz2, Severino Pinto1, Elena Galán3, David Janke1, Fernando Estellés4, Theresa Müschner-Siemens1, Xiaoshuai Wang5, Julia Heinicke1, Guoqiang Zhang5, Barbara Amon1, Agustín del Prado3,6, and Thomas Amon1,7 Sabrina Hempel et al.
  • 1Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy (ATB), Max-Eyth-Allee 100, 14469 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Telegraphenberg A 31, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 3Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), Sede Building 1, 1st floor, Scientific Campus of the University of the Basque Country, 48940 Leioa, Spain
  • 4Institute of Animal Science and Technology, Universitat Politècnica de València, (UPV), Camino de Vera, s/n 46022 Valencia, Spain
  • 5Aarhus University (AU), Department of Engineering, Blichers Allé 20, P.O. Box 50, 8830 Tjele, Denmark
  • 6Basque Center for Applied Mathematics (3BCAM), Alameda de Mazarredo 14, 48009 Bilbao, Bizkaia
  • 7Free University Berlin (FUB), Department of Veterinary Medicine, Institute of Animal Hygiene and Environmental Health

Abstract. In the last decades, an exceptional global warming trend was observed. Along with the temperature increase, modifications in the humidity and wind regime amplify the regional and local impacts on livestock husbandry. Direct impacts include the occurrence of climatic stress conditions. In Europe, cows are economically highly relevant and are mainly kept in naturally ventilated buildings that are most susceptible to climate change. The high-yielding cows are particularly vulnerable to heat stress. Modifications in housing management are the main measures taken to improve the ability of livestock to cope with these conditions. Measures are, however, typically taken in direct reaction to uncomfortable conditions instead of in anticipation of a long term risk for climatic stress. Moreover, measures that balance welfare, environmental and economic issues are barely investigated in the context of climate change and are thus almost not available for commercial farms. Quantitative analysis of the climate change impacts on the animal welfare and linked economic and environmental factors are rare.

Therefore, we used a numerical modeling approach to estimate the future heat stress risk in such dairy cattle husbandry systems. The indoor climate was monitored inside three reference barns in Central Europe and in the Mediterranean region. An artificial neuronal network (ANN) was trained to relate the outdoor weather conditions provided by official meteorological weather stations to the measured indoor microclimate. Subsequently, this ANN model was driven by an ensemble of regional climate model projections with three different greenhouse gas concentration scenarios. For the evaluation of the heat stress risk, we considered the amount and duration of heat stress events. Based on the changes of the heat stress events various economic and environmental impacts were estimated.

We found that the impacts of the projected increase of heat stress risk vary dependent on the region respectively the barn, the climate model and the assumed greenhouse gas concentration. There was an overall increasing trend in number and duration of heat stress events. At the end of the century, the number of annual stress events can be expected to increase by up to 2000 hours while the average duration of the events increases by up to 22 h compared to the end of the last century. This implies strong impacts on economics, environment and animal welfare and an urgent need for mid-term adaptation strategies. We anticipated that up to one tenth of all hours of a year respectively one third of all days will be classified as critical heat stress conditions. Due to heat stress, milk yield may decrease by about 3.5 % relative to the present European milk yield and farmers may expect financial losses in the summer season of about 6.6 % of their monthly income. In addition, an increasing demand for emission reduction measures must be expected, as an emission increase of about 16 Gg ammonia and 0.1 Gg methane per year can be expected under the anticipated heat stress conditions. The cattle respiration rate increases by up to 60 % and the standing time may be prolonged by 1 h. This promotes health issues and increases the probability of medical treatments.

The various impacts imply feedback loops in the climate system which are presently underexplored. Hence, future in-depth studies on the different impacts and adaptation options at different stress levels are highly recommended.

Sabrina Hempel et al.
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Status: open (until 19 Aug 2019)
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Sabrina Hempel et al.
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Indoor climate projections for European cattle barns S. Hempel and C. Menz

Sabrina Hempel et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Decreasing humidity and increasing wind speed regionally alleviate the heat load on farm animals, but future temperature rise considerably increase the heat stress risk. Livestock housed in open barns (or on pastures), such as dairy cattle, is particularly vulnerable. Without adaptation, heat waves will considerable reduce the gross margin of livestock producer. Negative effects on productivity, health and welfare of the animals as well as increasing methane and ammonia emissions are expected.
Decreasing humidity and increasing wind speed regionally alleviate the heat load on farm...