KENANSVILLE — This hot dry weather is threatening one of the Tar Heel State's big cash crops. Not tobacco-- it's poultry. If they aren't careful, turkey farmers stand to lose a bundle.
Our state farmers raise and sell more turkeys than any other state in the nation. For the next few days, they'll have to keep a close eye on the thermometer because excessive heat could devastate the billion dollar industry.
While other farm animals like cattle and hogs can handle the heat fairly well, chickens and turkeys can die in it.
"The heat affects them like it affects us," explains turkey farmer O.R. Blizzard. "It's just, they can't take it. In fact, I guess they don't perspire, and we do, and we're probably more apt to deal with it than they are."
On days with the temperature well over 90 degrees, many farmers are spraying water into their turkey houses to absorb some of the heat.
"They can't go to an air conditioner like we can," Gray Sheffield says. "They have to stay in that house, and there are so many in a house."
The birds' habits don't help. When turkeys get tired and hot, they want to sit down just like we would. But that makes them hotter because the air can't circulate through their feathers.
So, during the hottest times of the day, farmers have to work hard to keep the animals standing. Some of the best ways to do that are the old fashioned ways. Every hour or so, farmers will honk a horn or drive around the houses-- anything to keep the birds on their feet."
The excessive heat makes for long summer workdays. Farmers can't rest until the temperature drops off. Because of the precautions, North Carolina farmers say they haven't suffered any massive turkey losses in years.