Jason Holmes, Coolman, Denise, Merrill, Thomas A., Lavergne, Theresia, Stephens, Matthew F. | 10/4/2004 4:25:40 AM
Poultry production is Louisiana’s largest animal industry – a spot it has held for the past five years – and its $1.24 billion contribution to the state’s economy makes it the second-largest segment of Louisiana’s agricultural industries.
Even more, both the production of chickens and the economic value of the industry have continued to grow the past few years, according to figures compiled by the LSU AgCenter.
Dr. Theresia Lavergne, an LSU AgCenter assistant professor of poultry, points out that the Louisiana poultry industry is one of the largest agricultural industries – second only to forestry in total income.
Figures from the LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources also show the amount of broilers produced in the state has grown from about 811 million pounds in 1998 to almost 1 billion pounds in 2003.
In addition, the industry’s economic contribution has grown from about $759 million in 1998 to its current level in excess of $1.24 billion.
"The poultry industry is a big industry that brings in a lot of money," Lavergne points out, adding that broiler production, breeder flocks and table egg production brought nearly $634 million last year. Poultry processing and other value-added enterprises nearly doubled that to its $1.24 billion contribution.
Poultry production was the largest part of the $2.1 billion in animal agricultural industries in Louisiana last year. It ranks second only to forestry, which contributed $3.7 billion of the state’s $8.9 billion in total agricultural value in 2003.
Matt Stephens, an LSU AgCenter area agent stationed in Calhoun, said one reason for the growth of the industry is that some of the state’s land is more conducive to growing poultry.
"Some people have a choice between growing row crops and growing poultry," Stephens said. "If their land is rocky, or hilly, they will probably build poultry houses on it and raise birds."
The increases in the state’s poultry industry also may be attributed to the newer poultry houses, Stephens said.
"These houses are getting larger," he said. "Today’s poultry houses are 43 feet by 500 feet, compared to 32 feet by 400 feet as they were in the past."
The bigger houses are able to hold more birds, but the larger size doesn’t mean a major increase in labor for the poultry producer, Stephens points out.
"It takes just as much labor to work a house holding 30,000 birds as it does to work a house holding 20,000 birds," Stephens said. "The only extra labor that will come is if a producer has more houses."
Size isn’t the only new characteristic of poultry houses. Many of today’s poultry houses are computerized, making it easier for producers to keep up with feeding and watering the flock, maintain the houses’ temperatures and have systems that warn about problems.
"Producers need to keep up with emerging technology so they will know what is going on," Stephens said. "But they also need to know their chickens – how the chickens act and so forth – so that they can raise a healthy flock."
Producers also should stay informed of advances in animal health and nutrition, Stephens said.
"Advances in animal health are allowing producers to grow healthy birds with little or no antibiotics," Stephens said. "And advances in genetics, not growth hormones, are allowing producers to grow more chickens faster. For instance, it takes 42 days to grow a 4½-pound chicken today, whereas it used to take 60 days to grow the same size chicken. Advances in genetics have allowed this to happen."
Union Parish is the largest poultry-producing parish in Louisiana. A group of Union Parish teachers recently teamed up with LSU AgCenter agents to learn more about the economic impact the poultry industry has on the state.
The teachers toured local poultry houses and a poultry processing plant. They also learned how the poultry industry affects the local economy.
"Poultry producers borrow money from local banks," said Jason Holmes, an LSU AgCenter agent in Union Parish. "They also buy equipment and contract services from local vendors to run their operations. We all benefit from the poultry industry in our state."
The Louisiana poultry industry consists of broiler producers and egg producers. Commercial broilers are produced by more than 420 growers in 12 parishes including Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson, Lincoln, Livingston, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Sabine, Union, Vernon, Webster and Winn.
The total number of table egg producers in Louisiana in 2003 was 1,010. They had more than 1.2 million egg-laying hens and produced more than 28 million dozen eggs last year.Louisiana Poultry Industry Major Economic Factor