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Development of "Livestock Weather" to provide heat stress forecast for farmers

2021.07.20

Together, the Laboratory of Animal Feeding and Management (AFM), Department of Animal Science, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University, Livestock Japan LLC, a venture company founded by Kitasato University, and Weather News announced on April 27 that they had developed a system called Livestock Weather, which displays the risks of heat and cold stress for livestock, and that they had initiated a free-of-charge trial service. The system is expected to assist in promoting animal welfare and reducing productivity losses caused by heat and cold stress.

Livestock Weather estimates the temperature–humidity index (THI), which can help forecast and ascertain the degree of heat and cold stress that will be experienced by livestock (dairy cattle, beef cattle, calves, pigs, and chickens). This information is then provided to livestock farmers. It was developed based on preliminary research results from the AFM Laboratory and in cooperation with a private meteorological prognostic company in an effort to respond to the needs of the production field. Selecting the type and location of livestock on a user-specific page allows users to view weekly forecasts of actual and predicted THI over the past 24 hours and future 24 hour periods. THI-based stress is displayed by color according to the livestock type selected by the user. This design provides intuitive understanding of the dates and times one needs to implement countermeasures. In addition, all functions of the Weather News app, such as rain cloud radar, rain cloud alarms, and weather prognosis that are monitored every 5 min can assist in the working management of forage crop cultivation. Users can be a part of the trial period by applying on the LiveStock Japan website (https://livestockjapan.com/).

Changes in the thermal environment significantly affect the productivity of livestock, and in recent years, livestock deaths and decreases in productivity because of high temperatures have become a major problem. Previously, the rearing environment was regulated mostly based on farmer/breeder intuition. In addition, it is anticipated that the frequency of abnormal weather will increase in the future with the progress of global warming, but technical information for livestock farmers to implement climate change adaptation measures is lacking. The AFM Laboratory has promoted research on the evaluation of the effects of heat environment on livestock production and countermeasure techniques.

It was clarified that THI, calculated from humidity and temperature, could enable more accurate evaluation of heat and cold stress for livestock than temperature and humidity observations alone. Further, because the effects of these factors differ depending on the type and growth stage of the livestock and the product (milk and meat) in question, information that would contribute to enhanced efficient management was needed.

Fig 1. An example image of the Livestock Weather forecast application.
Credit: Kitasato University

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.(https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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