Most Noord-Holland sheep have no shade, suffer from heat stress

Sheep take shelter from the sun. Photo:
Sheep take shelter from the sun. Photo:

As temperatures soar in the Netherlands, three quarters of the sheep in Noord-Holland province have no way of finding shade to cool off, animal welfare organisation Wakker Dier has found.

The lobby group looked at 5,000 sheep on 134 fields in the province and found some 75% had no access to shade.  The research took place on July 31 when temperatures soared to as high as 32 Celsius.

Sheep suffer from heat stress from 23 degrees, Wakker Dier spokeswoman Anne Hilhorst said. ‘We found thousands of panting sheep. Exposing sheep to 30 Celsius s irresponsible. It is torture for them,’ she said.

The organisation says its research covered some 4% of all sheep in the Netherlands. Friesland has the most sheep after the province of Noord-Holland.

‘Circumstances will be different from province to province,’ Hilhorst said, ‘but looking at these results we fear the worst. We get a lot of reports of sheep suffering from heat stress from other provinces as well. Sheep farmers are clearly not prepared for hot summers.’

Wakker Dier said the solution to the problem is to plant trees or place shade-providing structures in the fields and that this should be part of a government national approach. So far agriculture minister Carola Schouten has paid little attention to the problem of heat stress, the organisation said.

Farmers themselves are already working on a plan to tackle the problem, NOS reports.

‘Farmers, including sheep farmers, have an interest in keeping their animals safe form heat stress,’ a spokesman for farming lobby group LTO told the broadcaster. ‘We are calling on our members to anticipate on the kind of heat levels we are experiencing now.’

LTO said it could not say if the results of the probe are a true reflection of the situation on the ground.

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