AN agricultural expert has warned local farmers about the potentially fatal impact of heat stress on livestock, following the Met Office’s first ever extreme heat warning.

The amber warning covers all of the south-west and will be in place until Thursday, when temperatures are expected to peak.

The Met Office launched its new extreme heat warning in June 2021 to highlight potential widespread disruption and adverse health effects.

Rob Matthews, of rural insurance broker Lycetts, urged farmers to not overlook the effect of rising temperatures on livestock and to take precautionary measures.

He said: “Farming is a weather dependent industry, acutely sensitive to temperature extremes, so the summer can be a worrying and testing time of year.

“It takes just a few extra degrees, over a relatively short period of time, for animals to suffer the effects of heat stress – it can happen quickly and without much warning.

“Unfortunately, many animals do not have the ability to dissipate enough heat to maintain homeothermy, so even seemingly subtle increases in air temperature can be very harmful and can lead to death.”

An increase in body temperature can impact milk productivity in dairy cows and cause beef cattle to lose condition.

He added: “Farmers can take measures to suit different types of livestock but generally speaking, they should monitor heat levels, take measures to keep animals cool when temperatures start to rise, and look out for tell-tale signs, such as lethargy, open-mouth panting, reduced food intake and agitation.”

If animals are displaying signs of heat stress, farmers are advised to seek veterinary help immediately.