What can you tell me about sustainable turkey production?
B.S.KentuckyAnswer: Thank you for contacting ATTRA for information about sustainable turkey production.Listed below are articles and publications that discuss production, slaughtering, and marketing strategies for small scale turkey producers. I have included several articles on small-farm turkey pasture raising, heritage turkey varieties, and naturally mating turkeys, as well as several articles on organic turkey production. An excellent video Pastured Turkey Production is available from Southern SAWG.The two pasture-based production systems that are commonly used are “day-range” and “pastured poultry” field pens. However, field pens have the disadvantage of crowding the turkeys and preventing them from extending their wings. Books that discuss the two production systems are Free-Range Poultry Production and Marketing and Pastured Poultry Profits. For a description of these two systems, please request the ATTRA publication Alternative Poultry Production Systems and Outdoor Access. ATTRA can also provide additional information on feeding poultry, on range poultry housing, and on processing and marketing poultry, including concerns for certified organic production.Comparing the costs between raising turkeys and chickens, turkey poults can cost $6.00 or more each, while chickens cost about $.65. Feed per turkey can cost $10, compared to $2 for chickens, so that the cash investment per turkey is more than $16, while for chickens it’s less than $3. Turkeys should yield about 15 pounds of meat and chickens about 3 pounds after processing at 16 to 24+ weeks for turkeys and 8 weeks for chickens.The most common type of turkey raised is the Broad-Breasted White, which was selected for the conventional poultry industry for confinement rearing. It was selected for fast growth and a large breast. Some pastured poultry producers also raise this bird, which grows out in about 16 weeks. However, other producers raise some of the heritage breeds that are hardier on pasture but are slower growing. The slower-growing heritage turkey breeds, when started in April or May, are ready for the November Thanksgiving market. The heritage breeds are harvested when they are almost sexually mature and putting on a layer of fat for the winter. Their breasts fill out well and their meat is reported to have exceptional flavor and juiciness.Raising heritage breeds means more labor since they are on the farm longer than Broad-breasted Whites. The overall feeding cost should be comparable between the heritage breeds and the Broad-breasted Whites, because the Broad-breasted Whites eat more, but for a shorter period of time (16 weeks compared to 24 or more weeks). However, since the heritage breeds can mate naturally, producers can keep their own breeders and produce their own poults.Good sources of information on the various heritage turkey breeds, as well as many other heritage poultry breeds, are the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (1) and the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities (2). Books on turkey production should be available from libraries and bookstores. Many sources of turkey poults also have books available on turkey production.References:1) The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy P. O. Box 477 Pittsboro, NC 27312 919?542 5704 2) Craig Russell, President Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities Rt. 4, Box 251 Middleburg, PA 17842 570?837-3157 Resources:Anon. 2000. Become the turkey leader in your town. Free-Range Poultry Forum. March. p. 13-14.Anon. 2005. More turkey resources. APPPA Grit. Late Spring. p. 19.Bailey, Chris & Deanna. 1997. Pastured turkeys. E-mail: MorrisFarm@wiscasset.net. Thur. 6 Mar. 22:38:27 -0600. 1 p.Beck-Chenoweth, Herman. 2001. Homegrown turkeys are terrific! Mother Earth News. October-November. p. 34?36, 38?40.Bender, Marjorie. 2004. Dear potential heritage turkey producer. American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. 12 p.Bender, Marjorie. 2000. New turkey organizations formed. American Livestock Breeds Conservancy News. November/December. p. 1, 4-5.Bender, Marjorie. 2004. Research confirms health of heritage turkeys. ALBC News. March/April. p. 4.Bennett, Dan. 2003. Turkeys have feelings too! American Pastured Poultry Producers Association Grit. Fall. p. 6, 17.Berry, Marla. 1998. Controlling blackhead in free-range turkeys can be difficult. Countryside & Small Stock Journal. January-February. p. 43.Beyer, R. Scott, and J. S. Moritz. 2000. Preventing Blackhead disease in turkeys and game birds. Kansas State University. EP-69. March. 2 p. Brubaker, Don. 2005. It’s turkey time again. APPPA Grit. Late Spring. p. 6, 12-13.Gerber, Barbara. 2001. Taking turkeys to a new level. Acres U.S.A. December. p. 22?23.John, Matt. 2005. What’s happening at the hatcheries? APPPA Grit. March-April. p. 1, 10-15.Kaufmann, Diane. 1997. Re: pastured turkeys. E-mail: email@example.com. Fri. 7 Mar. 10:23:41 -0600. 1 p.Moreshead, Jon A. 1996. Raising turkeys on pasture. Countryside & Small Stock Journal. November-December. p. 42-45.Nova Scotia Agriculture and Fisheries. 2001. Brooding turkey poults, Feeding programs for turkeys, and Turkey equipment and space requirements. 13 p. Padgham, Jody. 2002. Raising historical turkeys. American Pastured Poultry Producers’ Association. Fall. p. 10-11.Russell, Craig. 2006. Turkeys: History & varieties. Backyard Poultry. October/November. p. 28-33.Salatin, Joel. 2002. Our turkey turn-around. The Stockman Grass Farmer. December. p. 10-13.Smith, Nancy. 2004. Saving rare breeds. Mother Earth News. February/March. p. 57-63,