The thermal environment is the most important ecological factor determining the growth, development, and productivity of domestic animals. Routes of energy exchange (sensible heat and latent heat) between animals and their environment are greatly influenced by body weight, fat deposition, hair-coat properties, functional activity, and number of sweat glands, as well as the presence or absence of anatomical respiratory countercurrent heat exchange capability. Differences in these anatomical features across species have led to specialization of heat exchange. Thermal plasticity and degree of acclimation are critical factors determining the ability of animals to respond to environmental change. Increases in productive capability of domestic animals can compromise thermal acclimation and plasticity, requiring greater investments in housing systems that reduce variability of the thermal environment. The combination of steadily increasing metabolic heat production as domestic animal productivity increases and a rising world temperature poses ongoing and future challenges to maintaining health and well-being of domestic animals.


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