The Effects of Heat Stress on Sheep Welfare during Live Export Voyages from Australia to the Middle East
Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics, School of Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland, Gatton, QLD 4343, Australia
Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Kreutzwaldi 1, 51014 Tartu, Estonia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 March 2020 / Revised: 3 April 2020 / Accepted: 13 April 2020 / Published: 16 April 2020
Sheep are regularly exported from Australia to the Middle East, which is one of the world’s longest sea journeys. There is a particular risk to animal welfare in voyages departing Australia in the Southern Hemisphere winter and arriving in the Persian Gulf in the Middle East after about 15 days, into the Northern Hemisphere summer, because of the rapid transition from cold to hot temperatures. The threshold temperature when welfare problems occur is not well understood. We utilized data, including temperature and the number of sheep that died, collected on 14 shipments of sheep, travelling from Australia to the Middle East in the May to December period, between 2016 and 2018. Our modelling of the data suggested that sheep would experience heat stress in 50% of voyages between July and September offloading sheep at two of four Persian Gulf ports. Furthermore, when sheep were taken off the ship at Doha, the hottest port, first, the number dying on the ship increased. The results confirm the beneficial impact on animal welfare of restricting any sailing with a cargo of sheep from Australia to the Middle East in the Southern Hemisphere winter.