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Posted July 6, 2012 | comments 24 Comments

Area poultry growers suffering under heat wave

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

The sweltering heat wave hasn't just taken a toll on Virginians' health, it has also wiped out more than a half-million turkeys and chickens across the commonwealth.

"The valley probably took as big a hit as anything," Virginia Poultry Federation President Hobey Bauhan said Friday. "It was just a combination of the storm loss of power [and] extreme heat. We lost about 560,000 chickens and turkeys statewide."

Most of those -- about 450,000 -- were turkeys. And, that's just what had been reported to Bauhan by this July 3.

"That number could have gone up somewhat," he said.

One of those growers badly hit was Adam Long, manager of Franwood Farms Inc. in New Market. He said the operation started by his ancestors lost about 20,000 of its 150,000 turkeys.

Their deaths came before the June 30 massive storm.

"We had everything from extra fans and all that stuff -- 105 degrees [will take a toll on] pretty much any animal," Long said. "It was just 48 hours of straight picking up dead turkeys with about 20 guys."

Adding to the financial misery, Franwood Farms had to use six tractors to power generators for about two days after the storm, he said.

The farm's 22 turkey houses are home to turkeys of three different age groups, and the younger birds fared better in the heat, according to Long. He said only 800 birds were lost among the younger group.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Bobby Clark said the circumstances surrounding the poultry losses were "apparently unusual."

"It gets hot every year, but there was something about the fact ... it had been cool and then it got unusually hot very fast," he said. "I think that, combined with the humidity, is what caused exceptional poultry losses."

And, there's little farmers can do to make up for such losses, according to Clark.

"Farmers can insure their corn crops and their apple crops and various types of crops, but they don't have a mechanism to insure against these type of losses," he said. "As best I can tell, it's not an ongoing thing...I haven't heard the real bad situation has continued. With the thunderstorms and the cooler weather coming, hopefully, that will alleviate a lot of the heat stress."

While scorching temperatures are expected to continue through the weekend, Monday's high is 83 degrees, followed by a high of 82 degrees on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service's website.

However, the heat index on Saturday can be as high as 107, and for Sunday 101, according to the site.

And though the poultry losses may be "devastating to individual farmers" and processors, Bauhan doesn't expect the prices of chicken and turkey to go up in grocery stores. That's due to the minimal impact on the poultry supply -- 250 million chickens and 17 to 18 million turkeys are grown annually in Virginia, he said.

24 Comments | Leave a comment

    Naturally animals are going to die when they are crammed into these overcrowded HOT HOUSES!

    Wow! 250 million chickens and 18 million turkeys grown annually in VA, it's no wonder we have such pollution. One day it will be, "water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink".

    Diana, thanks for your comments. I knew your one-track mind wouldn't let us down.

    After reading this article, I did a little research:

    Approximately 98% of chickens used in egg production live in a cage of only about 48 sq. in. (about half as big as a piece of letter sized paper). Broiler chickens are often reared at similarly high densities in pens with concrete slatted floors or occasionally litter (straw) covered concrete floors. Because of this high density and a limited ability to forage, chickens often display aggression and can peck each other to death. In order to prevent this, it is common practice to sear off approximately half the chickens' beaks, which has been shown to cause severe and lasting pain. The close quarters is also a haven for the spread of disease. They have no access to sunlight or fresh air.

    They spend their days standing in their own fecal waste, causing them to develop burns from the ammonia. Next time you see a chicken in the grocery store, have a look at the darkened skin around the legs and on the belly. That darkened skin is from ammonia burning into their flesh. Because of these conditions, intensively reared chickens are more likely to carry diseases such as salmonella.

    Turkeys are packed together in very overcrowded sheds, where each bird has only 3 square feet of space. Living in overcrowded conditions creates an enormous amount of stress for the turkeys, which causes excessive pecking and fighting. To keep them from hurting or killing each other, farmers cut off the ends of their beaks and toes. No anesthetics are used. For some turkeys it is so painful to eat with their mutilated beaks that they will starve to death.

    Commercial turkeys have been altered to grow twice as fast, become twice as large, have white feathers and abnormally large breasts. All these changes have caused serious health problems like collapsed lungs, swollen joints, crippled feet and heart attacks. Commercial turkeys are also unable to reproduce naturally and are artificially inseminated instead. When the turkeys are 14-18 weeks old they are ready for slaughter. Workers will usually grab them by their legs and throw them into crates. The crates are then stacked on the back of trucks. In the winter some turkeys freeze to death and in the summer some die of heat stress. It is legal to transport farm animals for up to 36 hours without food, water or rest. In the slaughterhouse, the turkeys are hung by their feet on a moving rail while fully conscious. First, their heads are submerged in an electrified "stunning tank". This tank immobilizes them, but doesn't render most of them unconscious. After this their throats are slashed by a mechanical blade. Some birds are missed and continue on still conscious. The next step on the assembly line is the scalding tank. The turkeys are submerged in boiling water to remove their feathers.

    US as in the majority of normal people who have some meat in their diet. Leave my tapeworm out of this. You don't know me that well. Look in the mirror and you will see bliss.

    I like mine treated with some BBQ and a side salad.

    I find it very ironic that the same group of people that want animals to be treated humanely also do NOT believe in a woman's right to birth control. So they support population growth but do NOT want to provide food for the population or provide support by adopting unwanted children.

    Each creature was created to serve a purpose (yet I don't know some of their purposes yet) and feed the chain of command or power. So the way I see it is we either do something to control population growth or subject animals to these conditions to feed the masses.

      user123 I cannot imagine where you would get the "impression" that "...the same group of people that want animals to be treated humanely also do NOT believe in a woman's right to birth control."

      How would you come to that conclusion? It's certainly not based on any facts I know of. I believe people who care about humane treatment would certainly extent that to the human animal as well. Population control is of greater importance than ever and a woman should have the right to make that choice.

      Our planet Earth is in trouble! Land is being destroyed, oceans are being depleted of life and our natural resources are being used up.

      Long gone are the days when man used only what was needed for survival. Corporations now run this wholesale slaughter and greed has replaced any consideration of the future consequences.

      Research this for yourself: start anyplace. Go to Mercy for Animals and you will learn much.

    User123, would you be kind enough to point out what statement in Diana's comments even remotely refers to birth control.

    I would also be interested in the statistics or the name of the study that support your statement that the "same group of people" who support humane treatment of animals oppose birth control.

      If you pay attention you will see I did not REPLY to Diana's comment and I did not address her by name, my comment had nothing to do with Diana.

      And for you and Diana who also asked what I based my comment on, it is from personal experience based on the people I have come in contact with. Over 90% of the people I have personally met that were strong animal activists also did not believe in birth control or abortions even in cases of health issues or rape.

      So the comment was made that if we do not control population growth then the farmers have to turn into a big business to keep up with the demand for food. And we cannot "farm" for water.

    Hmmmmph. In a perfect world we would all be raising our own animals and crops for food...but alas, the world is far from perfect. Someone has to work around the clock to provide food for the masses. I love animals and this great earth...I am also married to a farmer...OMG A CHICKEN FARMER!!! Guess what? He loves animals as well. He is respectful of the animals as well as the land. In fact the farm has won awards for doing its best to protect our precious watershed. I really, really hate to hear people complaining about farmers. Why don't you put that chicken leg your munching on down and try to think on a bit of a broader level Diana.

      Kelly, I can assure you that Diana IS NOT eating a chicken leg. She is a very passionate vegetarian.

      And Diana, I once again will point out I have absolutely no problem with the fact that you are a vegetarian or an animal rights activist. I just think sometimes you get so passionate with your cause that you drive people in the totally opposite direction. Sometimes a calm logical reply can do more to help people educate themselves than a rant does. I actually agree with you that farming is now a big business but greed is not the only reason. The biggest reason is it has to be to keep up with the demand for food.

        You are right user123, I've made the switch. I still eat fish sometimes but I'm working on it. Even if people could start with a meatless Monday, it would give their "gut" a rest.

        We live in a culture (especially in this country) that puts animal flesh at the center of its diet. When I go to the supermarket I often notice the contents of an individual's cart in relation to their weight. It's usually filled with a ton of meat, sodas, chips - the American staples.

        I believe eating animals is unhealthy, unethical and actually destroying this planet. Since I live in this country I will exercise my right to free speech and attempt to share what I've learned. If some people pause to think and consider the comments - great. If some people get upset and don't like what I say - that's to be expected.

        According to the dictionary a RANT is "to talk or say in a loud, wild, extravagant way; declaim violently - rave."

        I hardly find a mindless one-line grunt intended to insult or "kill the messenger" a worthwhile contribution, however it does not discourage me speaking.

    Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him ....... A super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

    ROFLMAO

    Just jumping in to say i've been to franwood farms, and you people don't know anything about it, its much more pleasant than any other farms i know of, i actually feel bad for them, but i also disagree with poultry farms and any other farm to that nature, i'm also a vegetarian and don't shove my beliefs down other people's throats so everyone here needs to just shhhh.

    Hello user 123. I enjoyed and agree with your comment.

    I dont know about anybody else, but i think the ones with the best comments, were Sword, Scott and ROFLMAO!!!!

    TEE-HEEE!!!


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