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Livestock Losses from Matthew


It’s taken a while, but North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Programs Division feels that they can release some definitive numbers regarding livestock losses due to Hurricane Matthew almost two months ago.  Sharon Stewart, Director of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Programs:

“There were 2,800 hogs that just didn’t make it through the flood waters, but that’s all we have reported by the North Carolina Pork Council.  They said under 3,000, and I think that was probably account for the onesies and twosies that were in the backyards, that kind of thing.

And then also, we know that the 1.8 million in poultry is still holding.  We have fact-checked against information that we received into the department and then we’ve been heavily involved in a mortality management project which is carbon sourcing to get the houses dried out and cleaned out to restock.  And so, we’ve been able to take that information and fact-check it against the phone calls  we made early on, and so that 1.8 million on poultry is holding.”

There have been many questions regarding hog lagoons after so many lagoons were breached after Hurricane Floyd in 1999.  Stewart says that too, is a good news situation:

“We know that there were no breaches in dams, but we do know that there were 11 lagoons that had flood water roll over them.  So, we feel like it’s a good news story.  But, out of the carbon sourcing program, we had 49 farms that sought help out of this program, and only 25 of those did not have birds.  And so, that tells you how many birds had been moved out ahead of the storm.  And it was in an area that was heavily populated, so moving those birds out of those 25 houses really reduced the mortality that could have been there.”

Stewart credits farmers themselves taking action early after an emergency order was issued, in the low losses of livestock:

“One of the great things that happened, we went to Emergency Management very early on.  We normally get an Executive Order, if they request our input on writing the Executive Order for the State of Emergency, and in that Executive Order we asked for transportation waivers which allows longer hours of driving for CDL drivers and/or to move feed, live haul, that kind of thing.  So, we were out ahead with that request and that gave the industry quite a number of days in advance of the rains getting here from the storm, to move animals out.  And I think they obviously took advantage of that, so it’s a very good news story from our industry protecting their animals and moving them to market. 

We had very limited mortality if you look at what could have been, if you look at that area of inundation, it could have been much more severe.”

The emergency activation by the state and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture for Hurricane Matthew is the longest in Stewart’s career with the department, and she says she’s pleased with how well it’s gone in regards to livestock:

“I’m really proud of the work that the food and ag sector has done to ensure safety, and I’m really proud f the industry for being ahead of this event.  It made what was catastrophic less of an event on the animal health side.”

Director of NCDA’s Emergency Programs, Sharon Stewart'

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.