SPANISH LOOKOUT, Cayo District, Mon. Apr. 12, 2021– Thousands of chickens died due to what experts call a typical heatwave-induced stroke this past weekend. Representatives from the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) and the Spanish Lookout Poultry Health association were shocked this past weekend after seeing at least 15,000 chickens dumped on the roadside.
Henry Wiebe from Spanish Lookout Poultry Health says, “The chickens that died is related to the heat stress. This is something that we experience almost every year, like when we had a cold front and all of a sudden we have this extreme heat.”
Wiebe explained that this loss was preventable, but the farmers in question did not deploy the necessary preventative measures. He said, “If farmers have not been totally prepared for that, the chickens die.” Wiebe said that he too rears chickens, but it is his job to sustain them. When the days are extremely hot, he takes the initiative to turn on the sprinklers on the roof and his foggers, and personally spray his chickens with water to prevent a heat stroke, Wiebe said.
“So this is a fight that the farmers every year go through”, said Wiebe. If farmers wait until their first chicken has died, Wiebe says it is already too late. The chickens will ultimately die one after another.
Wiebe explained that Spanish Lookout Poultry Health did not do a test on these birds, for they are certain that heat stress was the cause of the deaths, since it is normal for chickens to die from intensive heat. “Every three months we do a test on the farms to make sure that we don’t have any health issues, and we don’t have any health issues and any burdens around. We will be doing another testing again to check, but I can guarantee that it is only heat-related,” he said.
On the other hand, the Acting Managing Director of BAHA, Francisco Gutierrez, said that BAHA officers are investigating the situation. Experts believe that the extremely hot weather may be the main culprit for the mass deaths. Preliminary assessments are underway to determine if this was the case. The officers, however, are still considering other possible factors.
The poor disposal of the dead chickens also raised concerns among the general public. The
producers’ disregard for public health regulations, and their endangerment of the local community may result in legal action being taken against them.
Wiebe explained that proper disposal of the chickens would have consisted of a mass burial or the transfer of the dead chickens to a dumping site in Spanish Lookout that is used to dispose of chickens. Weibe said, “This farmer that dumped it on the side of the road, which surely shouldn’t have happened at all. He went to the dumpsite and the gate was locked, and he did not know what to do, so he just threw them off the truck there, which is not acceptable at all, and he will be dealt with,” said Wiebe.
Wiebe advises farmers to pay attention to weather updates so as to prevent unnecessary
poultry deaths. In addition, if farmers must leave their farm for any reason, they should have a plan in place to prevent avoidable deaths.