Ala. poultry industry hit hard by tornadoes - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Ala. poultry industry hit hard by tornadoes

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Ray Hilburn and other association members spent time in North Alabama assessing the damage and helping growers and companies recover. Ray Hilburn and other association members spent time in North Alabama assessing the damage and helping growers and companies recover.
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

The tornadoes not only killed hundreds of people and destroyed thousands of people's lives; it also caused major damage to the state's poultry industry.  Hundreds of chicken houses were destroyed, killing millions of birds.  

"When these houses get blown away, there's several thousand birds per house, you're trying to catch those birds up who didn't get killed," said Ray Hilburn, membership director for the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association.  "And clean that up and if there's any birds injured, trying to euthanize them properly."

Hilburn and other association members spent time in North Alabama assessing the damage and helping growers and companies recover. 

"It's not only the physical damage they suffered, it's the mental stress they're having," Hilburn said.  "Because a lot of these growers have not only lost their poultry houses, their income, but they've lost their personal homes and possessions."

Johnny Wilkins of Lawrence County is one of the growers.  Wilkins lost 40,000 of his chickens.

"It tore me up until today I'm just over it more today," Wilkins said.  "I guess I'm just getting used to it, my chicken houses, trailers, everything was gone>

When the counting's done, millions of chickens will be dead across the state.    But Hilburn said it shouldn't have much of an effect on poultry prices.

"We lost over 3 million birds, but we process over 4 million birds a day," Hilburn said. "So it will not impact the industry as far as supply."

However, the tornadoes were still devastating to individual farmers and companies.  Hilburn - a poultry grower himself -says it was important for him to help.

"I feel like this it's my brothers out there that's lost and I feel like I need to be up there with them, supporting them." Hilburn said.

Hilburn said at least one poultry grower died during the tornado outbreak.  Many of the poultry companies have moved operations to facilities in South Alabama.  The Department of Agriculture and Industries is working along with other groups to help the growers recover.  The Poultry and Egg Association has started a relief drive to help affected growers.

Copyright 2011 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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