Climate Change & Racing

Climate Change and the Australian Thoroughbred Racing & Breeding Industry

We should all think about this; no matter where you sit on ‘climate change’?


Dr Gary Muscatello: Primary Industry Adaptation Research Network Theme Leader

Dr Peter K Knight: Animal Biosecurity, Production and Health

Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney

NCCARF (National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility)


  • Climate change fact or fiction?
  • Threats to our racing horses and communities
  • Racing industry issues
  • What can we do?

Climate change in Australia

  • Since 1950
    • Warming
    • Less rain in South-East; More in the North-West; Changes in extreme weather events
  • Heat waves, floods, frosts, fires and droughts

Sea level has risen 70 mm

UPDATE Friday 19th January 2018

Scone Race Club Meeting Transferred

Dear Members,

Due to the extreme heat predicted for Sunday 21st  January 2018 our race meeting has been transferred to Wyong Race Club.
The races will be on all racing channels and will still attract great attention.
We are sorry for any inconvenience caused due to this move, but the horses welfare is always paramount in our industry.
We thank you for understanding, and are looking forward to seeing you at our next race meeting on Friday 23rd of February 2018.
Kind Regards
The Scone Race Club

Heath Courtney CEO

What can we expect in the future?

  • Increase in average temperature
    • 1 – 6°C
  • Rainfall frequency ↓
  • Rainfall intensity ↑
  • More monsoonal rains
    • Not restricted to the north of Australia
    • Seasonal rainfall patterns changing
  • Dry days ↑
  • Evaporation rates ↑
  • Droughts ↑
    • longer and more frequent

Environment-horse relationship

  • Horse health is determined by environment factors
    • Temperature and water
    • Sunlight
    • Feed and nutrients
    • Other animals and organisms
    • Insects
    • Infectious agents
    • Toxins and pollutants
  • Relationship favors the horse
  • Climatic change may compromised our horses through negative environmental interactions û
    • Feed and water limitation
    • Barren and nutrient deficient land
    • Weather stressors
    • Encroachment of wildlife
    • More insects
    • Increase in susceptible to disease
    • Atmospheric irritants, dust and pollutants
    • Microorganisms
  • Animal Welfare
  • Direct consequences on humans

Equine health NOW!!

  • Reduced fitness?
    • Heat stress, malnutrition and disease susceptibility
    • Opportunistic diseases
  • Drought associated diseases
    • Rhodococcus equi pneumonia
    • EAFL and MRLS?
      • Caterpillar and saprophytes
    • Warming and humidity
      • Saprophytic bacteria
      • Fungi and evolution
    • Pollutants and respiratory health
      • Urbanisation and emissions
      • Coal dust and developing horses??
      • Ozone and the athletic horse??
      • COPD and EIPH??
    • Zoonosis
      • Hendra virus
      • Arboviruses
        • West Nile Virus in Australia?
      • Others?
    • Encroachment and overlapping of wild animals/horses/human populations
      • Feed and water availability
      • Human/horse demographics and behaviour

Effects on breeding

  • Negative correlation between the mean minimum weekly temperature and the time of first ovulation
  • A theoretical increase of 1oC in the mean minimum temperature may advance the mean ovulation date by 9 days
  • Warming may increase pasture growth à earlier ovulation
  • Rethink breeding strategies??
  • Seeing improvement NOW!!
  • Diseases and infertility??

Racing and Training

  • 6 billion to the GDP
  • Extreme weather
    • Heat stress
    • Pollutants
  • Feed and water constraints
    • Turf versus dirt tracks??
  • Track maintenance
    • Restriction on meetings
  • Transportation and emissions
    • Road
    • International

What should we consider?

  • Design of stables
  • Design of transport
  • Training regimes
  • Biosecurity
  • Breeding
  • Effects of feed costs
  • Water usage
  • Animal welfare

Other considerations?

  • Costs associated with ‘carbon taxes’
    • What is our carbon footprint ?
  • The public relations issues
    • Government/public needs to be made aware of the significance of the industry
  • Need to be proactive in times of uncertainty
  • Need monetary evaluation of the impact and the cost/benefits of strategies to combat climate change

True effects?

  • How will climate change TRULY affect the industry?
    • Not sure??
    • Likely to be negative
    • How bad?
    • Need to know more about the industries capacity to tolerate climate change
  • Horse and people level
  • Assessment of the industry activities
  • Highlighting our vulnerabilities
  • Strategies to mitigate and adapt
  • Costing climate change?
    • Outcomes, insurance and non-market


  • Reducing emissions
    • 450-550 ppm CO2 to reduce probability of >2°C rise in temperature by 2050
    • Kyoto agreement – 13% reduction by 2020
    • Garnaut report – 25% reduction to meet 450 target, 10% to meet 550 target
  • Cost 1% GDP to reduce emissions by 25%
  • Will our industry be targeted??
    • Transportation
    • Farm and stable practices
    • Race meetings?
  • Limited data
  • Need data to illustrate the relative contribution
    • Cost/benefit of activities
  • What is the industry’s carbon footprint
    • What aspect contributes most??
  • Carbon trading??
  • Public perception


  • Adaptation strategies – a risk management approach
    • Control climate-related diseases
    • Provide protection from heat stress
    • Protect the respiratory tract
    • Optimise breeding efficiency
    • Avoid malnutrition
    • Optimise land and track management
  • Need to evaluate these measures
    • Evaluate the uncertainty?
    • Reduce risk in a feasible way
    • Cost/Benefit
      • Animal health and welfare, performance, monetary, social and community outcomes
    • Motivation to adapt!!!
      • What if we do nothing???
      • Costing climate change for the industry!

What do you we need to know?

  • Generally poor data on the climate change susceptibilities in the horse, the racing industry and communities
    • Hard to evaluate the impact of climate change
  • What environmental changes are most likely to impact our horses?
    • How badly
    • How tolerant are they of certain changes
  • Priorities??
  • How will we cope with emission taxes and mitigation strategies?
    • Soft target??

What do you we need to do?

  • Can we be proactive
    • Adaptation to climate change
    • Management of horses and land
    • Increase awareness of the equine ecosystem
      • Nutrition
      • Housing and tracks
      • Water and feed management
      • Wildlife and insects
      • Man
    • Need GOOD DATA to progress!!
    • Vital for a sustainable racing industry into the future.

“The future will depend on the nature of human aspiration, extent of applied knowledge, courage to adapt and mitigate and ultimately choice”.