Livestock losses from Hurricane Florence flooding are increasing as recovery begins. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) reported 5,500 hogs and 3.4 million poultry have been lost by the state’s farmers from the storm. Crop losses are not known as of press time, NCDA&CS said.
The state department did not disclose what farms were flooded. Other reported damage included wind damage to hog structures and road damage. Additional assessments will be made Wednesday as flood waters allow.
Flooding circumstances continue to change, said the North Carolina Pork Council (NCPC) in their Sept. 18 update.
“Our farmers are working tirelessly now amid persistent and severe logistical challenges to continue the delivery of feed, to ensure power is operating on farms (as many use wells for water), and to reach the barns to provide proper animal husbandry. We believe deeply in our commitment to provide care for our animals amid these incredibly challenging circumstances,” NCPC said in the update.
Smithfield Foods reported one of their 200 company-owned farms in North Carolina where flood waters inundated the hog houses and lagoon. Loss numbers were not disclosed.
No damage was found at the Tar Heel, N.C., processing plant, reports Smithfield in an emailed statement. The plant will continue to ramp up production as roads become passable. “For now, however, we are focused on recovery efforts, our people, and caring for our animals,” the company said.
“Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Florence, including many members of our Smithfield Family in North Carolina. We are tremendously grateful for the safety and well-being of our employees and their tireless efforts to ensure care for our animals. While some of our farms did experience damage, the impact was relatively minor considering the extreme severity of the storm and our expansive footprint in the state,” said Keira Lombardo, Smithfield Foods senior vice president of corporate affairs. “To aid ongoing disaster-relief efforts in the wake of the storm, we are working with Feeding America through our Helping Hungry Homes program and are partnering with additional disaster-relief organizations to provide further assistance.”
Tuesday, the NCPC reported one lagoon breach occurred on a small farm in Duplin County, but an on-site inspection showed that solids remained in the lagoon. Three other lagoons had structural damage. Nine lagoons have been inundated by flood waters. Thirteen lagoons are at capacity due to rainfall and appear to have overtopped. Others are at capacity and efforts are being taken to respond within state regulations and guidance.
Poultry Farms Cut Off From Resources
Sanderson Farms reported 60 broiler houses and four feeder houses were flooded. They added about 30 independent farms that supply its chickens are isolated by flood waters and unreachable at this time. Each of the farms houses about 211,000 chickens, totaling more than 6 million birds that can’t be reached with chicken feed.
No significant damage to its North Carolina processing facilities, feed mill or two hatcheries. Operations at the feed mill resumed Monday, and the processing plant on Tuesday. The St. Paul processing plant will resume by the end of the week, as road conditions allow.
In addition to the loss of live birds, Sanderson will be unable to hatch and place live broilers in the field at its normal rate during the coming week. This will affect processing volumes through December, with the reductions occurring primarily during October and November.
Farmers were preparing as much as possible ahead of the storm, but the flooding intensity exceeded expectations. In the weeks prior to Florence, farmers proactively lowered lagoon levels in accordance with state regulations and farm nutrient management plans as necessary.
North Carolina state veterinarians are working with livestock and poultry producers to assess risk and have depopulation teams on standby to assist producers with animal disposal. NCDA&CS also says Environmental Programs and Division of Soil and Water Conservation are assisting farmers to ensure environmental impacts are minimized.
Since Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the industry has taken significant steps to minimize the threat of flooding, including the permanent closure of hundreds of hog lagoons located in flood plains in North Carolina.