MOULTRIE -- A power outage this week resulted in the death of 6,000 Sanderson Farms chickens in Colquitt County.

"It won't materially impact operations. But when you lose a house like that, of course, it is a catastrophe not only for the grower but for the company," Sanderson Farms Chief Financial Officer Mike Cockrell said Friday.

Sanderson Farms requires backup generators on all its production facilities, but the generator on one house failed.

"Something was faulty and they're still investigating why. Something was faulty in the generator. They're still investigating that, but the generator came on and didn't stay on and as a result many of the chickens in that house died," he said. "... Obviously, when it's as hot as it is in South Mississippi and South Georgia right now, the chickens, if the ventilation breaks down to where air is not circulating in the house, they will smother very rapidly. It doesn't take long at all."

Although Sanderson Farms owns the birds, the contracted grower will suffer economically as well, he said. Each house usually has from 20,000 to 22,000 birds, and the loss likely will impact any bonus the contractor might have received. But with new machinery, failures happen.

"We lose a house from time to time, because of equipment failures. It's a bad thing. We certainly don't like it," Cockrell said. "... We try to minimize it and they test it and try to make sure everything's right, but that doesn't mean that something like this doesn't happen."

Despite the loss, startup this week at the new plant has gone extremely well, Cockrell said.

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