Map showing number of poultry operations in the path of Hurricane Matthew.

Map showing number of poultry operations in the path of Hurricane Matthew.

COLUMBIA — Millions of birds housed at commercial poultry operations in South Carolina may face tropical storm force winds this weekend.

“Our big concern is occasionally we’ll have a poultry house collapse under adverse weather conditions and birds become trapped. It becomes an animal welfare emergency,” Michael Martin, an Extension veterinarian with Clemson University Livestock-Poultry Health.

Martin developed a map to illustrate the number of commercial poultry operations in South Carolina and the likelihood they’ll face tropical force winds exceeding 39 miles per hour. The information is based on the “Tropical Storm Force Wind Speed Probabilities” released by the National Hurricane Center.

Each colored band on the map shows the probability wind speeds will meet or exceed 39 miles per hour for at least one minute in duration. The numbers to the left of the map show the number of commercial poultry operations in each band and the total bird capacity for those operations. In the area along the coast (the purple band), South Carolina has 15 commercial poultry operations that can house a maximum of 1.16 million birds, for example.

Poultry is the state’s leading agricultural commodity, accounting for more than $1.4 billion per year in output, according to a 2015 study on the state agriculture and forestry industry commissioned by Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture, the Palmetto AgriBusiness Council, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture and the South Carolina Farm Bureau.

The role of Clemson Livestock-Poultry Health is to protect animal health through control of endemic, foreign, and emerging diseases in livestock and poultry and to protect the health of S.C. consumers by providing a comprehensive inspection service to ensure that meat and poultry products are safe, wholesome and accurately labeled. LPH serves as South Carolina’s animal health authority, state meat and poultry inspection department, and the state’s veterinary diagnostic center in fulfilling its role.

Once Hurricane Matthew has passed, LPH officials will respond to requests for assistance from commercial poultry operators across the state.