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Milder Summer Helps Broilers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When heat and humidity challenge the state's poultry industry, broilers lose every time, but this summer has been kinder than usual on the birds.
Up until the first of August, Mississippi broiler growers had not seen serious losses to heat stress. Before that, the cooler weather was a blessing to poultry growers, keeping deaths to a minimum.
Bill Goodwin is the extension agent for Scott County, the state's leading poultry producer. He said some broiler deaths to heat stress are unavoidable each year.
"Anytime you have 98 degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity, you're going to lose some broilers," Goodwin said. "But this summer we had less loss because the hot, muggy season has not been as long."
Dr. Tom Smith, extension poultry specialist at Mississippi State University, said despite the heat, Mississippi is an ideal place for poultry production. This year, the industry in Mississippi grew over 1996's level.
U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show Mississippi produced almost 3 billion pounds of broilers last year, and we should add another 9 percent to that this year, Smith said.
Smith said these numbers are propelling Mississippi higher up the ranking of the nation's poultry producers. Mississippi is now fourth nationally in the number of birds produced, and this year may also reach No. 4 in the pounds produced.
Poultry production in Scott County, which has almost all of the major poultry companies represent in it, has remained level this year.
"Because of waste management constraints, there is a limit to how many more chicken houses can be placed in Scott County," Goodwin said. However, the industry is growing rapidly in neighboring counties.
Poultry prices are good this year and are similar to last year's. In July, live broilers were bringing 40.5 cents a pound, down just a half cent from 1996 prices.
"The poultry industry is always optimistic," Smith said. "It is not as much a poultry industry anymore as it is a food industry that involves poultry.
"If the national economy is down, people become more money-conscious, and they buy more poultry because the poultry industry produces the most economical meat product on the shelf," he said. "At the same time, when the economy is good, it doesn't hurt poultry because the industry provides the type of product the people want."