A heatwave killed at least 400,000 chickens in Uruguay in mid-January, as confirmed by the Southern Association of Poultry Producers (Apas).
According to Joaquim Fernández, president of Apas, this represents between 10% and 20% of Uruguay´s production. During a television interview on Subrayado, Fernández said he had not seen anything like this in over 43 years in the sector.
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The country recorded the highest temperature ever: 44°C in the city of Florida, on 14 January, according to the Uruguayan Institute of Meteorology (Inumet). This record matched Paysandú’s temperature in January 1943.
Many other cities recorded temperatures above 40ºC, including the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. In another affected Uruguayan municipality, Canelones, the thermal temperatures at ground level reached 57°C, noticed the local newspaper El Observador.
Fernández explained that high temperatures can kill chickens as they do not have sweat glands and therefore battle to control their body temperature. As a result, the birds find it difficult to breathe and can die.
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The literature says the ideal temperature inside aviaries for adult birds should be maintained between 15 and 28ºC, with the relative air humidity varying from 40 to 80%.
Losses due to heat in South America are not unprecedented. In 2012, 200,000 birds had the same destiny in Uruguay. Furthermore, a historic heatwave with temperatures above 41ºC killed up to a million chickens in the city of Bastos, in São Paulo State, Brazil, in October 2020.
According to the president of Apas, the financial loss for producers might reach over US$1 million. Despite that, there should be no shortages and egg prices valuation will be minimal, he declared.
One of the affected producers, Andrea Vidal, said she lost 25% of her animals. She reports that the bodies had to be collected manually because birds decompose very quickly.
The Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries of Uruguay declared Poultry Climatic Emergence that previews financial assistance for bird farmers. The same support is already granted to beef and beekeepers producers due to the heat.
The Agricultural Emergency Zone in the country covers 16 regions and about 10 million hectares affected by the lack of rain.