Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on December 15, 2005. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information.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.
Katrina drops poultry's estimated farm value
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's poultry industry was poised to see another increase in value before Hurricane Katrina came through and set the whole industry back significantly, but producers have regrouped and are planning on expansion next year.
Poultry's estimated value fell 6 percent to an estimated $1.98 billion in 2005, mostly caused by hurricane losses. The industry's value topped the $2 billion mark for the first time last year, and had been in a modest expansion before the hurricane hit.
John Anderson, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said poultry holds the state's top agricultural commodity spot, ahead of forestry.
“We had about a 2 percent decline in broiler prices and some decline in production,” Anderson said. “Through October, the number of broilers hatched was down, and this would include the effect of the hurricane.”
Eggs declined 23 percent in value in 2005, but Anderson said that was because of a drop in price rather than a decrease in production.
“We had a phenomenal market for eggs in 2004, and this year we came back to a more normal price level,” Anderson said. “Egg production is up about 1.5 percent, but price is off more than 20 percent from what it was in the first half of 2004.”
Wallace Morgan, head of MSU's Poultry Science Department, said Hurricane Katrina was a factor in poultry's estimated slight decline in value. By the end of the year, more than 90 percent of the state's broiler houses were again operational, although numerous ones had been heavily damaged or destroyed.
“Most buildings and inventory have recovered from the storm, but producers have not recovered financially,” Morgan said.
Morgan said the industry predicted a 2 percent to 3 percent growth coming into 2005, but instead managed to maintain a fairly level value despite Katrina's devastation. He estimated the number of broilers grown in Mississippi will be about 2.5 percent lower than in 2004, for a total of about 810 million birds.
“We had 8 million birds die from Katrina, mostly in the days following the hurricane,” Morgan said. “Others lost a lot of growth potential because of the heat and because we couldn't get feed to them.”
The year started off with high fuel prices, which increased brooding costs. Morgan said some companies are offering fuel subsidies to growers to offset some of these increased costs of production. On a positive note, new MSU research has shown that larger birds grow better at lower temperatures than previously used, making some winter fuel savings possible.
Summer heat has been a problem in the past as growers must cool broiler houses to keep birds from overheating. Modern houses have power ventilation, and growers maintain appropriate heat levels with evaporative cooling systems.
“The older broiler houses are starting to go out of production, and the new houses are better suited to offset the summer heat,” Morgan said. “By and large, the newer houses stood up better to Katrina than did the older houses. As the old houses are replaced, the industry's infrastructure in Mississippi will be even more modern.”
Good news for the industry in 2005 was its continued success preventing poultry disease outbreaks.
“LT, or laryngotracheaitis, had gotten into our state, but we cleaned it up and made it through the year without getting it again,” Morgan said. “That is a result of our producers doing a fabulous job following biosecurity measures and vaccinating their birds.”
Growers are expecting a more positive year in 2006 with modest expansion predicted.
“Our poultry producers, like other farmers, take their lumps and move on, and always believe it will be better tomorrow,” Morgan said.