It’s been a little over two weeks now since the big storm. For the most part the farm has returned to normal – the damage to the pens is there, but the pens have been secured, or in some cases emptied of birds for the winter and shut down. One positive point is that the storm occurred in December when we were past the point where all the pens were filled with birds. We know we lost (dead) in excess of 3000 chukar partridges due to the storm and the collapse of the chukar pens. We had virtually no pheasant mortality from the storm – days after the storm we found pheasants that had been trapped underneath collapsed pens – but the birds survived. What we don’t know yet is how many of the 5,000+ escaped pheasants were recaptured and how many are still on the run. We need to get a count of the farm – a daunting task.
Wednesday (12/23) I spoke to Chris (our production mgr) and Brian K. (our pen manager) about the storm predicted for that night. Both of them were leaning towards putting all the pens down (pulling out the 2X4 props) due to the chance of freezing rain that night. I had looked at the weather and listened to the radio and for some reason I got it in my head that it was that unlikely that the temperature would be low enough to freeze. Over the years I am the one that has repeatedly told my guys that it’s better if they expend the labor to put the pens down 100 times and be wrong (i.e. the snow or ice event wasn’t enough to warrant putting the pens down) than what happens if just one time they don’t put the pens down and the pens collapse (the 2X4 break from the snow or ice load). So if I had just kept my mouth shut, I think Chris and Brian K. would have seen that all the pens were put down Wednesday afternoon. Instead they put ½ of the pens (about 50 acres) down and left 50 acres up (i.e. left the 2X4 prop poles up).
Wednesday night I was out shopping with my wife and it was raining. When we came back to my truck after 9 pm – the truck was covered in ice. I felt just sick. I knew what it meant. So early Thursday morning when I talked to Chris – my fears were confirmed – 90% of the pens left up had collapsed under the ice. The pens that had been “put down” were just fine.
In some weird way, ice isn’t as bad in some ways as snow. With snow collapse the birds can readily see the how (they see the light) and escape. With ice – the holes aren’t as visible. Also ice coats the cover in the pens too – and the ice makes the cover more supportive to the collapsing nets. I think I’m just trying to rationalize here.
Compared to the events of two weeks ago, this was nothing though. Yesterday afternoon it warmed up enough for all the ice to melt – and the crews got the pens fixed. We still had escapee’s – but they numbered in the 100’s not the 1000’s.
Through all of this our employee’s have kept a positive attitude. I want to single out Chris Theisen for 1) not blaming me for my misguided idea of not putting all the pens down and 2) for his continual positive outlook – what a blessing he is to me and to the farm. I also want to say thank you to the employees that worked today (Christmas Day) to take care of the birds – Luis Vargas, Marie Zanton and Brian Klein.
Merry Christmas everyone.