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Storms Challenge Poultry Growers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Power outages from occasional thunderstorms can be more deadly to chickens than the 100-plus degree days that are par for the course during Mississippi summers.
Tom Smith, poultry specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the state had lost about 250,000 chickens in recent weeks, but the true culprit was not just the heat.
"The majority of the losses were not directly related to outside temperatures; they were from power outages resulting from thunderstorms," Smith said. "If everything is in normal working order and there are no problems, poultry facilities will keep birds cool enough to endure these temperatures."
Smith said modern conveniences have lulled growers into a false sense of security.
"Sometimes technology can get the better of you," he said. "Some growers trust alarm systems too much and do not keep a close watch on their houses. Then when an unexpected thunderstorm knocks out the electricity, it can take only minutes before losses begin."
A power outage in the middle of the day can mean death to birds within 15 to 30 minutes.
"Birds put out a tremendous amount of body heat, so any day over 80 degrees can cause heat stress, especially with larger birds, if there are no cooling systems available," Smith said. "Heat is not typically an issue in transporting birds. Trucks do not stop moving until an appropriate facility is available to take the birds inside."
Smith said consumer demand has kept summer production near normal or slightly better. Broiler and egg prices have been near last year's level or slightly lower.
Mississippi's broiler production last year was valued around $1.32 billion with 735 million broilers producing 3.68 billion pounds. The average weight of broilers increased slightly to near the 5 pound level.
Nationally, the state ranks fourth in number of broilers produced and fifth in pounds produced.