Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on July 24, 1998. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Hot Summer Affects Poultry Industry
By Marcela Cartagena
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Heat and humidity, some of broilers' worst enemies, have been harsh this summer causing Mississippi poultry industries to suffer significant bird losses.
"The loss of birds has not been catastrophic this summer," said Mike McAlpin, president of the Mississippi Poultry Association. "But they have been considerably higher than last summer."
McAlpin said heat and humidity affect bird weight and eating habits. He said birds do not eat as well during high temperatures, causing them to gain weight slower.
Dr. Tom Smith, poultry specialist at Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said additional losses result when the birds are transported from the chicken houses to trucks where there is only air circulation.
Jack Rogers, director of corporate services with B.C. Rogers Poultry, Inc., of Scott County, said heat this summer has made the company lose nearly 236,000 chickens. He said other companies in the area had proportionately similar losses.
Rogers said the company's growers are using several techniques and types of equipment to minimize the heat stress to the chickens.
"Chickens are fed at night to avoid the heat of the day," Rogers said. "Growers also keep the birds supplied with cool fresh water with potassium and electrolyte supplements to keep them cooler."
Rogers said his company has built houses that run east to west to avoid direct sunlight from the sides. High velocity fans, foggers that spray mists of water on the birds and water cooling systems help keep the birds cool.
"The heat stress slows down weight gain and the chickens will weigh several tenths of a pound less during a typical Mississippi hot summer," he said.
With Arkansas ranking No. 1 in the country, followed by Georgia and Alabama, Mississippi ranks No. 4 in the nation in the number of broilers produced.
Dr. Wallace Morgan, head of MSU's poultry department, said Mississippi is not the only state that has suffered from heat stress. Arkansas and North Carolina have suffered major losses, especially in the last few weeks. He said Mississippi's number of broiler deaths have not been as high as in those two states.
"Price has increased due to the loss of chickens, but low feed ingredient prices are helping offset expensive meat safety issues the companies are addressing," Morgan said. "Prices and profits vary with each company."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture market figures show Mississippi's average wholesale price for July is 68 cents a pound, while production cost is 48 cents a pound. The net difference is almost 20 cents higher than last July's net margin.
According to USDA, Mississippi has produced about 1 percent fewer birds than it did last summer, but this year's overall broiler production is expected to be higher than last year.