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Animals 2018, 8(10), 164;

A Systematic Review of Heat Load in Australian Livestock Transported by Sea

College of Veterinary Medicine, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch 6150, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 31 August 2018 / Revised: 23 September 2018 / Accepted: 23 September 2018 / Published: 27 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Transport)
PDF [302 KB, uploaded 27 September 2018]

Simple Summary

The transport of livestock by sea (‘live export’) is an important contemporary animal welfare issue in Australia. There is particular concern for the effects of heat load on the welfare of sheep being shipped live from Australia to the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer. To reduce bias in a contentious context, we performed a systematic review of the literature relevant to Australian sea transport, heat load, and livestock. We discuss the factors contributing to harmful heat load, pathways for mitigating risks and existing knowledge gaps. We identified several areas requiring research to address these knowledge gaps.


The transport of animals by sea (‘live export’) is one of the most important current animal welfare issues in Australian society. Recent media attention has highlighted concerns regarding the effects of high environmental temperature and humidity on the welfare and mortality of sheep being shipped live from Australia to the Middle East, especially during the Northern Hemisphere summer. To improve understanding of how and why harmful heat load occurs, we systematically reviewed Australian research into heat load and sea transport. High thermal load occurs during the sea transport of sheep and cattle from Australia when animals are subject to hot and humid environmental conditions and cannot remove heat generated by metabolic processes in the body, potentially also gaining heat from the environment. Several approaches have been proposed to mitigate these risks, including avoidance of voyages in hot seasons, selection of heat-resistant livestock breeds, reducing stocking density, and improved ventilation. We identified a lack of scientific literature relating to heat load in animals transported by sea and considerable potential for bias in the literature that was found. We identified the following priority research areas: (i) experimental manipulation of variables thought to influence the incidence and severity of harmful heat load, including sheep density; (ii) further assessment of the Heat Stress Risk Assessment (HSRA) model used to predict heat load events, and (iii) development of a suite of animal welfare indicators that may allow identification of ‘at risk’ sheep before they reach debilitating heat load condition. Addressing these knowledge gaps will assist efforts to reduce the frequency and intensity of harmful heat load events. View Full-Text
Keywords: cattle; heat stress; mortality; physiology; sheep; sea transport; stress; welfare cattle; heat stress; mortality; physiology; sheep; sea transport; stress; welfare
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Collins, T.; Hampton, J.O.; Barnes, A.L. A Systematic Review of Heat Load in Australian Livestock Transported by Sea. Animals 2018, 8, 164.

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