An older study, not taking into account effects on product quality which may further impact product value, covering the United States alone (St-Pierre et al., 2003), estimated total annual economic losses to livestock industries between $1.69 and $2.36 billion. Of these losses:
- $897 to $1500 million occur in the dairy industry,
- $370 million in the beef industry,
- $299 to $316 million in the swine industry,
- $128 to $165 million in the poultry industry.
Subsequent estimates on the annual losses due to heat stress in the U.S livestock industry alone are in the order of US$1.5 billion for dairy and nearly US$1 billion for swine (Pollmann, 2010; Key and Sneeringer, 2014). For poultry there have not been newer estimates.
Economic losses are difficult to estimate
However, these attempts to quantify losses likely underestimate current and future losses because:
- These estimations are based on temperate environments the actual losses to heat stress due to continuous heat exposure in tropical climates are proportionally greater.
- These estimations were carried with past climate data. They did not account for the climate variability expected in the 21st century (Gunn et al., 2019). Production and economic losses caused by heat stress for the dairy industry are increasing due to global climate change (Tao et al., 2018).
- It is difficult to estimate the magnitude of economic losses due to heat stress. There are multiple aspects of productivity that are affected besides product quantity (for more information, find all our scientific publications).
- Heat stress also affects product quality (meat, milk and egg quality) reducing it’s market value,
- There are lifelong effects transferred across generations in certain species such as dairy cows and sows,
- Furthermore, veterinary costs linked to the increased incidence of associated production diseases are imposed; which also contribute to greater morbidity and mortality. For example, it is well known that heat stress animals are more susceptible to the development of clinical and subclinical disease and a greater susceptibility to enteritis syndromes in poultry and pigs and a deterioration of rumen health in cows takes place. These effects are particularly difficult to estimate at this point.
In conclusion, there is a consensus that with increasing temperatures and genetic selection for productive performance, economic losses will be more pronounced in the future, further necessitating the implementation of appropriate measures against it.