Why Do Hog Farms Fare Well During Hurricanes?

North Carolina pig farmers have endured many tropical storms and powerful hurricanes over the years. In fact, the state has seen at least one storm per year, on average, for decades, according to the most recent NC Pork Report.

Despite misinformation often spread by activist groups opposed to agriculture, pig farms fare well during hurricanes, the report said. Hurricane preparation is now a year-round practice. Here are four ways the NC Pork Report says hog farms have beat the odds against these tropical storms.

1.    Farmers manage lagoons to maintain adequate storage in case of an unexpected storm.

For example, in the months leading up to Hurricane Florence, farmers were vigilantly preparing their farms, just as they do every year. The summer of 2018 was dry and anerobic lagoons were well managed heading into the heart of hurricane season. With ample storage capacity, nearly all of these lagoons were in position to withstand the record-breaking floods that would follow, the report said. More than 98% of the state’s 3,300 anaerobic lagoons performed exactly as intended with little to no damage.

2.    When storms approach, generators and feed are disbursed on farms and at key locations across major hog-producing counties.

“When a hurricane is brewing, every hog farmer, veterinarian and production specialist becomes a meteorologist looking at these diagrams and computer-generated models,” says Emily Byers, DVM, with Prestage Farms. “After a while, you can get a pretty good idea of where the storm is going.”

Here’s a checklist of other things farmer do to prepare before a hurricane hits.

3.    Farmers move animals to higher ground or to markets early depending on the forecasted track of the storm.

In the case of Hurricane Florence, as the storm grew closer, farmers and the companies they grow for moved more than 20,000 pigs to higher ground for safety, the report said. Over the years, farmers have learned hard lessons about the potential for animal mortality and have responded by taking additional precautions on farms located in flood-prone areas.

4.    Years of experience have resulted in more planning for the strong winds, disruptions to road networks, power outages, flooding and more. 

Byers said Prestage Farms’ policy is to evacuate farm staff and not allow anyone to return until the designated return time for the safety of their employees. Stop all hauling too, she advises. There should be no driving in the dark during a hurricane or flooding. Incident commands is important during disasters so key people can be in place to make decisions.  

Thanks to careful planning and responsible preparation, North Carolina pig farms have withstood the powerful storms remarkably well, the report said. 

In addition, the pork industry has closed hundreds of the most vulnerable treatment lagoons, said Andy Curliss, CEO of the North Carolina Pork Council.

“The next time a powerful storm descends on North Carolina, it’s sure to bring heavy rains and strong winds — along with more unsubstantiated accusations about the supposed environmental damage that pig farms may cause. To the extent those allegations will be reported by the news media, pig farmers urge caution and common sense — because alarmist allegations are not true,” the report said.

Read the full report, “Truth of the Matter.”

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