The aim of this study was to assess the impact of heat stress on dairy cattle productivity and reproductive performance under projected future climate conditions. Temperature-Heat Index (THI) was used as an indicator of the degree of heat stress likely to be experienced by dairy cattle. Daily climate stations across South Africa were selected to be spatial representative of the country’s climate which was used to extract the downscaled daily climate projections. Projected heat stress under mean daily climate conditions suggested no stress in the present and mild stress in the intermediate to distant future climate projections along the Northern border. The mild stress projected under mean conditions implies that the impact on milk production might be minimal. For maximum daily conditions, all the projections suggest that dairy cattle might be severely stressed under present and intermediate future climate scenarios over most of the country, while in the more distant future climate scenario, very severe stress was projected in parts along the northern periphery.
Key words: Climate projections, dairy cattle, heat stress, temperature-humidity index.
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