The Effects of Heat Stress on Sheep Welfare during Live Export Voyages from Australia to the Middle East

Animals (Basel). 2020 Apr 16;10(4):694. doi: 10.3390/ani10040694.


One of the world's longest sea transport routes of live sheep for slaughter is from Australia to the Middle East. Heat stress is a major cause of mortality in shipments of sheep, particularly in sheep leaving Australia in the Southern Hemisphere winter to arrive in the Middle Eastern summer. Temperature and mortality data were utilized and recorded from fourteen voyages from Australia to the Middle East in May to December, 2016-2018, with the aim of determining when the welfare of the sheep began to be affected by elevated temperatures. Increases in heat stress were recorded at temperatures normally experienced in 50% of voyages between July and September offloading sheep at two of the four Persian Gulf ports, Doha and Dubai; however, small increases in recorded heat stress were not sufficient to increase mortality. Temperatures increased most rapidly when sheep were offloaded initially at Doha first, followed by other Gulf ports, and this resulted in higher mortality than when sheep were offloaded at other ports first. These results confirm benefits of restricting voyages leaving Australia in the Southern Hemisphere winter and suggest that shipments offloading at multiple ports should not offload at the hottest port, Doha, first.

Keywords: heat stress; live export; mortality; sheep; temperature.