Managerial Steps to Alleviate the Effects of Heat Stress, Water Deprivation and Low Pasture Quality in Small Ruminants
Global environmental challenges as depicted by increased ambient temperature by 0.7 °C, decreased rainfall, and unpredictable weather patterns are associated with global warming. Such changes are translated by an increase in heat stress amplitude and duration, less water, and more solar radiation, resulting in slower pasture growth, higher soil erosion and overgrazing. Therefore, small ruminants will be exposed to more days outside thermal neutral zone, less available water and poorer pasture quality. Unfortunately, in most parts of the world threatened by global warming, small ruminants are managed extensively, and walk long distances for pastures and water access. Heat stress in sheep and goat is associated with both lower feed intake and performance. Intensive small ruminant production could benefit from highly digestible and denser energy diets as supplemented by fats or isoflavonoids, and temperate water with modulated salt content. Moreover, in extensively managed animals, proper pasture rotation to prevent overgrazing, and the use of mixed pasture such as legume and grass could provide proper feeding under heat stress conditions. Furthermore, traveled distance modulation, timing of sheering, shade, ventilation and sprinkles provide good management to alleviate solar radiation intensity and heat stress and additionally improve follicular and semen quality and prevent early embryonic loss. Breeding strategies and the usage of locally adapted breeds should be promoted alongside planned breeding for animals with lower environmental impact. Small ruminants, when properly managed, have the potential to be good energy converters and could provide a viable solution for food security in a globally warming world.
heat stress, gobal warming, small ruminant management