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Chicken houses during a storm.

AUBURN, Ala. – Planning for severe weather is an option for some, but mandatory for others. The men and women who raise and produce agricultural products cannot afford to be caught without plans and preparation for severe weather. Poultry producers, specifically, must not only plan for damage to houses, but also plan for power outages, feed shortages and much more.

Always Alert

Producers are on alert during times of potential storms said Dennis Brothers, an Alabama Extension specialist of agricultural economics focusing on poultry.

“Emergency preparation is an ongoing effort. It includes upkeep and maintenance on backup systems, generators, fuel supply and alarm systems,” Brothers said. “In threats of severe weather, growers have to be aware and close by to handle any unforeseen problems. I knew of a producer that kept a cot in his generator shed and slept there when he was on generator power, which isn’t a bad idea.”

Problems During Severe Weather

Severe weather is more than just tornadoes and thunderstorms. Producers must also prepare for freezing temperatures that could possibly slow down or stop deliveries of much need supplies.

“One problem we routinely see in both cold weather and storm events is the possibility of strapped fuel supplies. Fuel storage becomes a problem when farms are in periods of long generator runs,” Brothers said. “Knowing the generator fuel usage under load and having back up fuel supplies can be critical.”

Producers must also take into consideration feeding their flocks during these times. Producers evaluate their supply of feed and decide whether it is necessary to take feed savings measures.

“If situations occur where growers anticipate feed delivery issues, producers can consider some things that will slow down consumption,” Brothers said. “The company’s service technicians or integrator management team will coordinate those measures with the grower.”

Flocks Living Conditions Chickens in a poultry house.

In addition to severe weather, producers also have to work ensuring that their flocks have comfortable living conditions. Producers use heaters during cold times of the year to keep the houses at set temperatures. This helps create an environment where the birds grow in a healthy way. Producers have to monitor these heaters and make sure they are working properly at all times.

When the weather is warmer, producers also have to keep their flocks cool. Extremely high temperatures in the summer can make living conditions for birds difficult, if not for the cooling systems in place.

“Houses have a series of vents and ventilation fans to create cooler temperatures inside the houses,” Brothers said. “Producers also use evaporative cooling pads to maintain correct temperatures. All of these require power to operate, which also stresses the importance of having a backup power supply.”

Ready at a Moment’s Notice

Whether it is a tornado or threats of snow, producers must always be ready to protect their flocks. This means their backup equipment also has to be ready at a moment’s notice. As Brothers puts it, assuming all is well equals failure.

“In a modern commercial poultry house, loss of power for as little as 20 minutes can cause significant losses in production as well as bird mortality. There is little time during such an event to address the problems,” Brothers said. “This puts the emphasis on being prepared at all times for the worst things you can imagine to happen, because eventually, they will. Backup systems on the farms can handle these situations, but only if producers perform proper maintenance, test the system under real life stresses and monitor it closely while in operation.”

More Information

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System Emergency Handbook is a great source of information for both farmers and the general public on preparation and recovery in times of severe weather. The handbook is available on the Alabama Extension website and can also be downloaded as an iBook.


Featured Image:  Dharris324/shutterstock.com, mykhailo pavlenko/shutterstock.com

In Text Image: David Tadevosian/shutterstock.com

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