Early assessment finds 90 poultry houses damaged or destroyed, along with six additional breeder houses.

April 14, 2020

3 Min Read
Mississippi poultry tornado.jpg

Tornadoes and damaging storms that swept through the Mississippi on Easter Sunday afternoon and evening killed 11 people and caused devastating losses to growers in the poultry industry.

Tom Tabler, poultry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the most significant damage to the state’s poultry industry occurred in the Covington County area near Collins, Miss. The poultry industry in the state was worth an estimated $2.7 billion in 2019.

Early indications are that at least 90 poultry houses were damaged or destroyed, along with an additional six breeder houses. Other houses are operating on generators for power. Reports continued to come in throughout the day Monday as roads were cleared of trees, and damage estimates may rise.

“Sanderson Farms’ growers suffered the most losses, with at least 60 broiler houses and six breeder houses destroyed in the Collins area,” Tabler said. “They also had breeder houses destroyed at some of their other locations.”

About 20 of Wayne Farms growers' houses in the Laurel/Soso, Miss., area have some damage, although many of these houses did not have birds in them when they were hit. Growers for Peco Foods at Bay Springs had heavy losses, with 11 houses either down or damaged. By noon Monday, officials had not been able to confirm other damage.

Facilities associated with Tyson Foods, located mostly around Carthage, Forest and Magee, Miss., seems to have experienced no damage from the Easter storms. Mar-Jac, with facilities mostly in the Waynesboro area, also seemed to have suffered no poultry losses, but a broiler manager lost his personal house to the storms.

“Although some houses were between flocks and empty, many of these houses had chickens in them,” Tabler said. “Some would have been chicks just a few days old, while others would have been flocks nearly ready for harvest.”

The Mississippi Board of Animal Health is involved with the live animals. When possible, chickens are moved to other houses.

Mary Beck, head of the Mississippi State University department of poultry science, commented on the devastating effects the tornados had on the poultry industry in Mississippi, particularly for Peco, Wayne and Sanderson Farms.

“As always, when disaster strikes this industry that is so important to this state, Mississippi State University and the poultry science department Extension team are here to help in any way we can,” Beck said. “We are available by phone, text, email and videoconferencing to answer questions or provide expertise on topics ranging from bird welfare to grower safety.”

No dollar figure has been assigned to the losses yet, but Tabler provided some specifics to help grasp the magnitude of the losses.

“A new broiler house today is 46 ft. wide by 500 ft. long or sometimes longer,” Tabler said. “Depending on the features built into the house, they may cost $300,000 to $325,000 per house and raise about 25,000 chickens.”

James Henderson, head of the Mississippi State University Coastal Research & Extension Center in Biloxi, Miss., which includes 21 county extension offices in southeast Mississippi where the poultry industry was hardest hit, said extension agents in every county and the state specialists at the university are ready to help and provide guidance as farmers, timberland owners and food and fiber industry producers work to move forward on the path to recovery.

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