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According to a recent study, the increase in global temperatures could result in an additional 1.2 million deaths of lambs in Australia annually.
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According to a recent study, the increase in global temperatures could result in an additional 1.2 million deaths of lambs in Australia annually.

A recent analysis suggests that the increase in temperatures caused by global warming will lead to lower survival rates and fertility among lambs in Australia’s sheep population. This could result in significant losses of up to $166 million every year for the industry.

A recent research project from the University of Adelaide, featured in the publication Nature Food, simulated the potential effects of a 1C and 3C rise in temperature on Australia’s sheep industry, valued at $4.3 billion.

According to the study, around 2.1 million potential lambs are lost every year due to heat stress. If the temperature increases by 3C, the estimated number of lost lambs would increase to 3.3 million.

According to Associate Professor Will van Wettere, the primary writer of the report, heat stress is a significant issue that is projected to worsen.

According to Van Wettere, the regions in Australia where sheep farming is possible may decrease in the coming years. If current predictions hold true, the area available for agricultural production will diminish.

“It appears that we have reached a temperature of one degree already – this is concerning, a major concern.”

According to Van Wettere, sheep living in Queensland and arid regions are at a high risk of heat stress due to increasing temperatures. However, even flocks in cooler areas may still face significant consequences.

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According to two earlier studies conducted in Australia mentioned in the report, high temperatures caused a decrease of 3.5% in the lambing rate (number of lambs born for every 100 ewes mated) for each day exceeding 32.2C. Furthermore, extreme heat also resulted in lower sperm quality for rams and negatively affected the development of fetuses.

According to Van Wettere, warmer temperatures lead to fewer lambs being born. Additionally, the heat can also affect the size of the lambs during pregnancy, making them less likely to survive.

The report did not factor in the potential consequences of global heating on the availability and quality of livestock feed and water, which could further worsen the impact of heat stress.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia is home to the second-largest number of sheep in the world, totaling 72 million as of 2024. However, the accuracy of this figure, along with the size of the country’s cattle population, has been called into question by some experts due to its reliance on survey data.

Stephen Lee, the director of the South Australian Drought Hub, stated that implementing feed supplements, selecting for specific breeds, and providing more shade coverage would aid in helping sheep acclimate to rising temperatures caused by climate change.

“The impact of heat stress on sheep production is extremely significant and projected to rise,” he stated. “However, we have the ability to address this issue.”

According to Natalie Collard, the CEO of Farmers for Climate Action, the report serves as a strong illustration of the impact of global warming on the agriculture industry in Australia.

Collard stated that it is necessary for those in the agricultural industry to decrease their carbon emissions in order to safeguard our food supply and the sustainability of our businesses in the future.

She stated that a significant increase in funding for research is necessary to create additional technologies that farmers can utilize in order to reduce the impact of severe weather.

Sheep farmer Jane Kellock from South Australia has boosted her lamb production by 30% using a melatonin-based feed supplement for her ewes in a trial conducted by the South Australian Drought Hub.

According to her, research enables producers to make well-informed decisions on how to effectively adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The Meat and Livestock Australia organization explained that it is challenging to anticipate the impacts of global warming on the livestock industry over time. However, they find models to be a beneficial method for planning and adapting to potential changes in weather patterns.

A representative stated that this research enables businesses to contemplate which strategies can be utilized if these situations were to occur.

Due to the vast geographic size and varying environmental features of Australia, the country is in a favorable position to sustain a thriving livestock sector.

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Source: theguardian.com