Domestic animals depend on pastures and feed crops which are highly influenced by climatic factors. Thus climate has to a certain degree indirect influence on livestock as well. Different breeds of animals depend on different kinds of animal feed.
The weather and climatic elements which have direct effects on livestock are temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, air pressure, wind, storms and sunshine.
Such climatic elements that have indirect effects on livestock are harmful for the growth and development of plants required as animal feed. Besides, such elements influence the spread of insects and diseases which kill animals in large numbers.
Of all the climatic elements affecting the animal husbandry temperature factor is indeed the most important. If the temperature is very high, milk produced from cows and buffaloes are less.
The optimum temperature ideal for milk production from dairy cows is about 10°C. In the poultry farms hens produce larger eggs in winter and at high latitudes. On the contrary, the size of eggs becomes relatively smaller in summer when the temperatures are high.
There are certain breeds of animals which reduce the intake of feed when the temperatures are above normal. Naturally this has an adverse effect on the health of the animals. So when the temperature continues to be high the yield of flesh and fat from animals is less.
Like human beings, animals also feel discomfort. Even the reproductive capacity of animals shows a declining trend under extreme heat. Similarly very low temperature is equally unsuitable leading to reduced output from the animals.
However, nature has provided some safeguards to protect animals from the rigours of extreme cold by growing thicker coats of hair on their bodies. Long exposure to cold may prove fatal to more sensitive animals.
Precipitation has indirect effect on animals. It has its direct effect on the animal feed. The winter precipitation associated with very low temperatures is detrimental to the health of animals.
The livestock must be guarded against such weather in shelters specially built for them. Availability of grass in the pastures is much reduced because of snowfall during winter. Sometimes when the snowstorms are very intense, the cattle and sheep often pile up and a number of them die of suffocation.
Relative humidity is such an element of climate which affects the respiration in animals. If the relative humidity is extremely low so that air is very dry, the animals feel discomfort. If the water is available in adequate quantity along with feed, then the effect of low relative humidity is negligible.
High velocity winds, low relative humidity and high temperatures combined together increase the water requirements of animals. Moderate winds minimise the bad effects caused by high temperature.
High velocity winds increase the dryness of air further; make the atmosphere dirty with dust and sand. The animals feel the stress of such weather. Besides, high velocity winds aggravate the harshness of cold with low temperature.
Changes in atmospheric pressure have some effect on the livestock. In mountainous areas the pressure changes with altitude are conspicuous. The animals had to be acclimatized to higher pressure. Certain animals are reported to be very sensitive to the rapidly falling air pressure and the approaching storm. Stormy weather does not suit the animals. Lightning associated with thunderstorms may have disastrous effects on animals if exposed to weather in the open.
In animal husbandry natural or artificial shelters are built to keep the animals safe from the negative effects of climatic elements. By heating and air conditioning temperature is controlled in animal shelters.
Sometimes overheating of animal shelters or buildings meant for them proves to be harmful. For example, heating of cow-sheds during the winter months produced undesirable results such as, reduction in the milk production.
In order to provide relief to their sheep from excessive heat, the shepherds clip the coats of their animals.