The Family Business of Raising Turkeys

 

The Family Business of Raising Turkeys | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #turkeyeveryday #MNAg #turkeys #FarmHer

A lot has changed since my last Minnesota Turkey blog post – I am no longer the Ag Program Specialist and Membership Coordinator at the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.  I recently got the opportunity to return home to be the 6th generation on my family farm. I’ve been full-time on the farm now for one month and am blessed beyond belief that I get to continue our family tradition of raising turkey breeders (along with my husband who is also a high school agriculture teacher).

I want to take this opportunity to briefly talk about one of the many reasons Minnesota turkey farmers have been successful over the years and continue to be.  Many of the turkey farms in Minnesota are multi-generational – consisting of 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th generations.  Knowledge is passed down from generation to generation.

The Family Business of Raising Turkeys | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #turkeyeveryday #MNAg #turkeys #FarmHer

On my family farm, there are currently three generations working together – myself being the youngest and my grandfather the oldest. This past month, I’ve been working alongside my grandfather – he is the ripe age of 85 and continues to be instrumental on our farm.  The experiences my grandfather has gained and the changes he’s seen in farming are irreplaceable.  Even though I’ve grown up helping on the farm my entire life, there’s a partial lack of understanding based on inexperience in keeping a business running, hen behavior at every age, disease symptoms, analyzing farm inputs, and managing the ventilation system and temperature in the barns with the changing Minnesota weather, to name a few examples.

The Family Business of Raising Turkeys | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #turkeyeveryday #MNAg #turkeys #FarmHer

I believe what impresses me the most is how we as a family and the turkey industry as a whole, have continued to improve how we raise and care for our turkeys.  Because we now raise our turkeys in barns, we are able to raise turkeys year round in a comfortable temperature.  My grandfather has told me stories of shoveling turkeys out of snow that were buried in an early fall snow storm, or pulling turkeys out of mud after a heavy spring rain. We are now able to vaccinate for many diseases that my grandfather and his family fought to prevent from sickening their turkeys. The feed our turkeys consume at every age fulfill their requirements – a turkey hen laying eggs has different mineral and vitamin needs than a poult (baby turkey). Turkeys are curious creatures, so our waterers and feeders are bright colors such as green, red, and yellow – which help encourage poults to drink and eat.

The Family Business of Raising Turkeys | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #turkeyeveryday #MNAg #turkeys #FarmHer

How we raise turkeys today is very different from how my grandfather’s family raised turkeys many, many years ago.  Through the years, he has learned many things that are getting passed down to me.  Many of those things are helping mold me into a better farmer and a better care taker of our turkeys.

Safety Tips for Farms

Farm Safety Tips | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

Our office received an email today from one of our grower members, asking for resources about farm safety – especially fire and weather safety.

I took a look around, did a Google search or two, and came up with a few links that hopefully are helpful to farmers. Check these out:

University of Minnesota Extension – Extreme Weather section / tips for farms:

Iowa State University has this Farm Safety PDF with quite a bit of information.

Here’s a decent Barn Safety Checklist.

Some good information here, as well, on Farm Fire Prevention and Safety.

And the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center has a plethora of resources for farms and farm workers – include several different farm safety checklists that you can find here.

Are there other websites and resources I’m missing? If so, please comment below and I’ll them to this list!

Lara

 

Good Neighbors

 

Spring planting | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

By Abby Neu

Extension Educator – Poultry

neux0012@umn.edu | 320-235-0726 x 2019

An unseen benefit to the devastation of the 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak can be the lessons learned from it.  The industry – companies, farms and researchers – have been able to identify risk factors where their impact t can be reduced through emergency plans, permitting processes, operational procedures and over-all preparedness.

In 2015, a study was conducted by the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS).  The study aim was to identify potential risk factors associated with the HPAI outbreak.  Numerous risk factors were named in the CAHFS report published in January 2016.  The report provided risk factors throughout the study time period as well as risk factors detected early on in the outbreak and later in the outbreak.  The study found the most concerning risk factor was the proximity of a turkey farm to an infected turkey farm.  Throughout the duration of the study time period, a non-infected farm was found to be 46% more likely to become infected if it was located within 1.5 miles of a confirmed infection.  A second major factor was the movement of bird mortality by rendering trucks which increased odds of a farm becoming infected by 10%.

Early in the outbreak, turkey farms that had tilling, discing, fertilizing or planting activity going on nearby had a 14% increase of becoming infected. This was also the time period of wild bird spring migration (April).Influenza virus has been proven to survive cold temperatures in soil through previous research.  Migrating birds who were carriers of the virus could have shed the virus through their feces onto the fields that surround poultry facilities.  The disruption of the soil surface during early spring fieldwork could cause soil particles to become airborne, possibly carrying the virus to poultry production facilities.

The study showed the potential for a risk factor (soil related) in HPAI transmission to exist among different types of agricultural operations.  Connecting two dissimilar operations can be difficult.  In late February and early March, I had the opportunity to travel the state to speak to corn growers about avian influenza.  Sixty eight percent of the meeting attendees stated the reason they came was to learn more about the turkey/poultry industry.  They were curious about aspects of agriculture they are unfamiliar with and especially avian influenza as it also affected them indirectly with less corn being fed to Minnesota poultry.  By the conclusion of the meetings, they were open to working with nearby turkey farms to lessen this risk factor.

So, how well do you know your neighbors?  Now is as good of a time as any to get to know them.  If you already know them, you are one step ahead in the game.  Pick a morning to bring them coffee and a couple donuts and ask a favor of them.  You can start by explaining basics of AI and how it affected you and the industry in 2015.  Then, kindly ask them to give you forewarning when they will be working in the fields near your barns.  This will allow you the opportunity to “batten down the hatches” as they say.  Weather permitting, you can raise the curtains for those few days or minimize ventilation to extent possible (without harming the flock), and ensure your personal and farm biosecurity is maximized.  You will be pleasantly surprised how receptive your crop-growing neighbor will be when you take the time to get to know them, and share some information about avian influenza.

Call me (320-235-0726 x 2019 or e-mail neux0012@umn.edu) if you want to practice before you visit your neighbor.  MTGA staff or I can provide facts and numbers about the outbreak to you.  Working together to minimize the risk of avian influenza is beneficial for you your farm neighbor(s) and all of Minnesota’s agriculture industry.

Antibiotic-Free?

Antibiotic-Free Poultry Production | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

Whether or not you agree with the increase pressure put on animal agriculture to raise animals while responsibly using little or no antibiotics doesn’t really matter anymore because there is no denying or slowing that movement down right now.  We have had many changes in how and when we use antibiotics in our operation with more to come in the not too distant future.  I don’t want to talk too much about what these changes are but want to instead look at the effects of what these changes have on farmers who raise them.

As of now, we still raise birds conventionally, which means we still use antibiotics when needed.  The difference is now everything is more a reactive use to challenges instead of a proactive one. This means we have to have symptoms of disease or increased mortalities to justify usage and then a prescription by a veterinarian to use it.  We are trying to use probiotics and other “natural” products to support optimal health but the fact of the matter is living, breathing organisms get sick no matter which supplements they are given. We only need to look at ourselves to realize this.

There isn’t a worse job any farmer has than to pick up diseased animals or having to euthanize an animal due to the effects of a disease challenge. I know many people argue that the conditions the animals live in and the fact they are confined are the reason for this but I strongly disagree with them. We try to maintain optimal conditions for our animals as they are growing. This includes:

  • Giving them confined areas when they are young to keep them close to the heat sources they need and increasing their “play space” numerous times the first few weeks of their lives as they grow.
  • Moving from brood barns to finish barns between 4 and 5 weeks of age which gives them the proper room to grow and increased ventilation to maintain proper air quality.

Many practices in modern agriculture were designed over the years to protect and benefit animals and are now being scrutinized by activist groups and consumer groups. We try our best to raise our animals in the best conditions possible and still there is no doubt that we will have a challenge at some point in time.  When we do use antibiotics, we use them according to label usage and we follow withdrawal guidelines for them to ensure the meat is safe and each flock we market is tested to prove this.

Disease challenges are very stressful on animals, but also, it is very stressful on the people caring for them. If anyone thinks farmers don’t care about the animals they raise, I would love to invite them to join one of us during a disease challenge. Add to the stress from the increased workload and watching animals go through the effects of disease, every animal that dies, is revenue lost. So between physical, emotional and financial effects, it gets hard at times to deal with. Everyone handles it differently but, no matter how, it still takes a toll on farmer’s health.

Antibiotic-Free Poultry Production | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

Taking a step back, I often wonder, what percentage of the consumer population is demanding these changes. Then, what percentage of these people base their demands on factual data?  Also, is it worth it for processors to pursue these markets or is it a short term trend that will come and go?  I know many food chain restaurants have made large public press releases when going with cage-free eggs and serving only antibiotic free or free range meats. There are commercials everywhere on TV about it as well. I wonder what would happen at these establishments if consumers would be offered these options along with conventional options on the menu. Then, each option sold at a cost which reflects the actual cost to produce them.  Would people be willing to pay the increased price for these products or not? So I guess the best question to anyone reading this is how important is antibiotic free, cage free, organic, etc. products to them and what are they willing to pay for the finished product?

I really wish I was more of an answer man right now than a question man but these are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves. I don’t have the answer to whether or not we can feed a growing world population with these new production changes. I hope so, if that is the way we continue to go in the future, because otherwise we will have bigger issues to worry about. But I do know, based on the last 15 months, it will cost more for farmers to produce products this way. My greatest hope is that, IF consumers are willing to pay more for the end product with these labels or guarantees, then hopefully both processors and farmers are able to see their own profits increase.

 

 

What is Brooding?

In my January blog post you were introduced to these little gals as they arrived at our farm and made themselves at home.

In the video above, the poults are babies, one day old, and in pens. During the time poults are in pens is referred to as brooding. The length of time for brooding poults is generally up to 5 to 6 days depending on how the birds are doing.  The amount of chore time dedicated to brooding is significant. Someone is in the barn most of the first day to ensure the poults are spreading out, eating, drinking, warm enough, and that all systems are working properly. The poults are tended to numerous times during the day throughout each day of brooding.  The red Plasson waterers in all of the pens are emptied and rinsed many times during the brood to ensure the water remains cold and fresh.  The green water lines are called Ziggity watering systems. The water lines are flushed every day as well to promote bacteria free water. The feeders and scratch pads are topped off numerous times per day with fresh feed to encourage eating. A worker being in the barn also keeps the birds up and active as they are very interested in people and will often flock to you if you stay to too long in the pen. The pens are made new for each flock with 18” cardboard which is cut specifically to the size of pen required for the brood barn. They are held up with metal stands.

Each day during the brood, all of the feeders are filled with fresh feed.  The process begins by grabbing feed scoop(s) and filling the feed cart with feed.  The feed is  brought into the barn from the feed tank outside.  It is augered into the barn and into the feed cart through the feed fill system. In this photo you see the fill system filling a feed box for one of the feed lines. To fill the feed cart, the white plastic tube goes into the feed cart instead of the feed box.

When the feed  cart is full of feed, it is pulled around the barn to each pen and the feeders in the pen are hand filled using the feed scoops.

During this time, the workers are evaluating the health of the flock, the temperature of the barn, the height of the feeders and waters, the ventilation and the humidity which can all fluctuate depending on the flock and the weather conditions.  Because ventilation is so important, I will address it in another blog post.

Feeding turkeys during brooding is a lot of manual work. Along with assessing flock heatlh, air quality conditions and feeding, the workers are also adding new dry litter as necessary and filling in depressions in the litter created when too many turkeys want to sit in the same spot.  The barn temperature during brood is around the 90 degree range.  We all rather enjoy it when the feed cart is empty, knowing we did a very important job very well.

When it is determined the poults are ready to be let out of pens and to have access to the entire barn, all the brooding equipment is removed and the middle feed and water lines are lowered.  We call this process letting birds out of pens.  We start at the far end of the barn and begin by taking  down and removing  the draft shields, metal stands and the feeders.This is a big job that requires lots of careful walking to ensure the little turkeys running around are not hurt. Turkeys are very inquisitive and are quickly running around the barn.

The above video clip is of the same flock at 3 weeks of age.

At age 4 weeks 5 days they will be moved to the finishing barn.  Stay tuned!

Tweet me @LynBackGess!

A New Turkey Flock for a New Year

Gessell Family via MinnesotaTurkey.com

Happy New Year from the John and Lynette Gessell Family!

With the frigid temperatures, the recent thaw fooling us into thinking it is spring, the passing of Martin Luther King Day, the beginning of a new MN State legislative session, the inauguration of the 45th President of the USA, and on the farm 3 load outs, 3 move overs, and 3 new flock arrivals, along with the completion of the remodeling work on the second floor of one of our brood barns, it is no wonder that “the Holidays” seem like so long ago. Nonetheless, it is our sincere wish that your 2017 will be filled with peace, promise and prosperity.

Our family rang in the New Year preparing for and getting new baby turkeys. The new babies arrived on New Year’s Eve. As I helped the guys brood birds on New Year’s Day, I thought about upcoming blogs in 2017. So much of what we do, how we do it and why we do it is second nature to those of us who are in the business of raising turkeys. I sometimes presume that most everyone else does as well, but of course that is not the case. So thinking about how to best relay the how, what and why of our work is a bit overwhelming.

I will begin with explaining how we get a new flock. We are independent turkey farmers so we have all the financial investment in each flock we raise. We purchase the baby turkeys, all of the feed fed to the flock, and we are responsible for all the other inputs related to raising turkeys, fuel, electricity, labor, facilities, etc. Therefore, we do everything within our power to care for each of the turkey in the very best way we are able, so as many turkeys as possible get to market. We want every one of the birds to thrive so we can sell them to Jennie-O Turkey Store, get paid for them and make a living.

To get new baby turkeys, called poults, the barn is set up, which means the brood barn or starter barn is carefully prepared for the new turkeys poults.

Turkey barn prepared for a new flock | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

The barn is clean and warm, ready to accept baby poults that are generally only 24 hours hatched out of the egg when they arrive at our farm. The temperature in the barn on day one is a warm 86-92 degrees. Notice the cardboard pens.

Turkey barn prepared for a new flock | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

The pens are designed to keep the baby turkeys close to the warmth of the brooder stoves and to have easy access to fresh feed and cold water. After all, they are tiny babies and need a comfortable nursery, as little stress as possible, frequent feedings and many little sips of water. The bedding is sunflower hulls which are clean and fresh for each new flock.

Turkey barn prepared for a new flock | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

Baby poults are delivered from the hatchery in a climate controlled truck. When the truck arrives at the farm, it backs up to one of the main entrances to the barn.

Turkey barn prepared for a new flock | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

The birds come in plastic boxes of 100.

Turkey barn prepared for a new flock | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

The boxes are unloaded from the delivery truck and onto a trailer by way of good old fashion muscle.

Turkey barn prepared for a new flock | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

When the moving trailer is full, it is pulled to the far end of the barn with a utility tractor.

Turkey barn prepared for a new flock | via MinnesotaTurkey.com
The next step is to place the baby birds into the prepared pens. The plastic sections are removed from the box , the box is walked to the pen, placed onto the floor and quickly and gently the birds are scooted out of the box into their new home.

Turkey barn prepared for a new flock | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

The babies very quickly find the water and the feed and in no time at all are settled into life on the farm.

Turkey barn prepared for a new flock | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

Turkey barn prepared for a new flock | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

Turkey barn prepared for a new flock | via MinnesotaTurkey.com

Over the course of the next five to seven days the birds will receive intense care and oversight. Stay tuned!

Lynette

(Tweet me @LynBackGess!)

The Penny

The Penny - How It Relates to Turkey Production | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #turkeyeveryday #agchat #MNAg #minnesotaturkey

Santa brought my daughter, Abby, the “Game of Life” board game this past Christmas and let’s just say we have played a few games the last few weeks. I remember playing the same game when I was growing up but the new version has definitely changed with the times. You can choose to go to the “Career Route” or “College Career Route”.  Pretty normal decision made by most graduating high schoolers. And just like in real life, the College Career Route takes half your money instantly but your income come payday is hopefully a little higher for the rest of the game.

There are other decisions you need to make on the way such as choosing to go to night school to change careers half-way though, or just continue on the life path you were on.  Also, choosing to take what is called a “Family Route”, which increases your chance of having children, or continuing again on the life path you are on.  The last decision you have to make is whether or not to choose a risky path, where quite a bit of money can be made or lost, somewhat like investing money, or the safe path which is status quo. At the end you count the money and whoever has the most, wins the game. Pretty neat concept to teach children about the flows of life.

The Penny - How It Relates to Turkey Production | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #turkeyeveryday #agchat #MNAg #minnesotaturkey

My wife, Brenda, two older children, Abby and Wyatt, and I were playing a game the other day and we were counting our money at the end when our youngest child, Isaac, just happened to come to the table with an actual penny in his hand. I decided he won the game since he was the only one who had any money on the table with actual value.

A penny…our smallest unit of currency won the game!  I have heard many reports of why we should stop making pennies since they cost more to mint than they are is worth.  There are a lot of people who won’t bend over to pick one up when found on the ground and most convenience stores have a “take one, leave one” container at their counters so you don’t have to have a few cents making noise in your pockets.  What role does the penny have in our society?  I don’t have the slightest idea but I can tell you what it means in our business.

Our marketing contracts with our processor are all based on net pounds of live production.  This means we get paid a certain amount for every “useable” pound of bird we sell.  We talk in tenths and hundredths of a cent daily.  It is very common to get hung up on one or two tenths of a cent when it comes to negotiating these contracts.  Yes, that’s right, $.001.  It won’t go a long way in filling your gas tank but when you multiply it out over a couple million net pounds of turkey processed it adds up fast.

Our contract pays us what formulas say it SHOUD cost for certain thing such as feed cost, poult cost, heating cost, and then there is a classification called “Other Growing Cost”.  These are exactly what the words say, all the other costs associated with raising birds such as: labor costs, electric expenses, medication costs, loan and interest payments, and bedding costs to name a few.  This whole portion is called the Base portion of the contract. Then there is a Market portion of the contract that adds to or takes away from the Base portion depending on what the Base value is compared with the Market value.  If the Market value is higher, it pays a premium and if it is lower, some is taken away.  At the end there are a few incentives or deductions based of performance and we have our value we get paid per net pound of bird.

It is so interesting to look at how a tenth of a cent savings here or a quarter of a cent there can make a huge difference on the bottom line. It so easy to say we should have done this or that looking back at a flock after processing but a little harder to see when the birds are in the barns.  I guess the best thing to do is to just keep “picking up the pennies” when we see them during the flock and hopefully they will add up at the end.  A few examples are things like not running too much heat and wasting fuel, leaving lights on during summer days, having feed spills all over the barn, and most importantly keeping the birds comfortable with optimal growing conditions.  Each difference might only make a fraction of a difference but when added together can mean a lot.

That is why I always will bend down to pick up a penny when I see one on the ground. It might be the difference in winning or losing the game whether it is business or Life.

Happy New Year to All!

Pete

Farm Trucks & Cleaning Turkey Barns

Cleaning out turkey barns | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #turkeyeveryday #MNAg #agchat

Clean Out Equipment owned and operated by Riverbend Acres and Riverbend Trucking of Melrose.

One of my most favorite things on our turkey farm is the farm pickup truck.

I am not certain any farming operation could live without one. Ours happens to be a 1996 green, at least I think it is green, Chevy Silverado. I remember when we purchased it as a used vehicle; oh boy it was a good lookin’ shiny truck. We would regularly wash it inside and out, drive carefully and slowly on the gravel roads, avoided using it for dirty work and farm use. Well eventually, the green Chevy became more of the utility truck – you know the vehicle that is handy and generally available because, by then, it was not as shiny and new as it used to be.

Over time the Chevy pickup was transformed into an all purpose mobile shop, hardware store, lumber yard, service station, home office, recycling bin and moving truck. The former grey interior with the carefully Armor All-ed dash and control panel, became uniformly and thickly dust covered, faded and cracked from the elements. The floor mats, well they just plain disappeared under the necessary items that collect in a working farm truck like a battery charger, a can or two of WD 40, extension cord, crescent wrenches, pliers, hammers, pipe wrenches, wrappers from Little Debbie chocolate covered doughnuts, chaff, candy wrappers, receipts, work gloves – well you know. The formerly well buffed and waxed exterior has given way to rust, dents and a driver’s side door that stays shut only if the driver holds onto the handle or the half open window and the driver learns quickly not to take a right turn too fast!  After way too many missed regularly scheduled maintenance service jobs, the pickup just does not run as smooth as it used to. It has gone downhill with age.

But, I tell you what, that darn farm pick up is dependable, trustworthy and essential. It was about a month ago on the farm, when we ran into vehicle gremlins, everything from a dead battery in the car to the other truck being in the shop getting new tires. The last option was the farm pickup. By gosh the ol’ Chevy, started right up and we were on the road. So often, I hear the sputtering, missing engine as John heads out to the barns.

We use the pickup truck pretty much every day on the farm.  We can haul basically everything and anything in that truck.  Typically we use it to load and haul turkey gates, to check turkeys, run errands and do whatever is needed.

One of my favorite things to do is to drive around in the summer in the farm pickup truck with the windows down, looking at the crops of corn and soybeans, smelling the freshly cut alfalfa.  When cruising around in the spring and fall, my senses are reminded that manure needs to be cleaned out, spread and incorporated onto farm fields.

We too are part of that process.  We clean our barns after each flock.  Cleaning is a big job because for us it means the entire barn is cleaned.

The first task is to blow down as much dust in the barn as possible. Dust accumulates on rafters, fans and stoves due to the turkeys stirring up dust by running around in the sunflower hull bedding on the barn floor. The dust is blown down with a blower which is mounted to a bobcat/slid loader. Here’s a tip – don’t stand in the front of the blower or you will be blown over! It is a powerful blower, but it needs to be in order to reach to the rafters and to have enough power to remove the dust that sticks to screens that get rusty over time.

After the dust is down, then the walls, fans, vents and screens are power washed using a large water tank pulled through the center of the barn. Off the back of the washing tank are two high pressure washer wands that are used to power wash all surfaces.

After the washing is complete, then the litter on the floor is moved by a bobcat/skid steer to the center of the barn forming a mound of litter throughout the length of the barn. Great care must be taken when moving the litter to the center of the barn. The bobcat operator must pay close attention to the bucket and maneuver the bobcat and bucket to avoid hitting walls, supporting poles, or most importantly, the operator must have the skill to operate the levers and bucket so the floor of the turkey barn does not get torn up. The floors in the barns consist of heavily compacted clay, which is a solid and a water impermeable surface, but still no match for the power of a bobcat bucket.  If the driver does not pay attention to the position/angle of the bucket on the floor while moving the litter, the bucket will make holes in the floor, which results in an uneven living surface for turkeys.

The litter that was moved to the center of the barn is then removed with a front end Michigan loader, taken outside of the barn and immediately loaded onto semi trailers. The semi trailers are then covered with a heavy canvas and the litter leaves the farm and goes to farmers to use on their fields for fertilizer.

The process of cleaning is labor intensive, but clean facilities are a vital part of creating and sustaining a healthy living environment for the turkeys to grow.

John & Lynette Gessell | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #agchat #MNAg #turkeyeveryday

Lynette and her turkey farmer husband, John!

I am thinking about those old farm pickup trucks again. I’ve come to the conclusion that farm pickup trucks kind of take on the persona of the farmer themselves. Farmers begin young, handsome and strong, working daily to build their farming operations. Over the years, they don’t take the time for as much basic maintenance as they should, and eventually the farmer begins to show their wear and tear. After years of daily hard work, they may not look quite like they did when they were “new,” but be assured they will “run” when needed in all kinds of weather, in any condition and they just keep going.  They are dependable, trustworthy and essential to a farming operation above all else.

I love both of my farm trucks!

Twitter me @ lynnbackgess

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

On behalf of Minnesota’s 450 turkey farmers, turkey companies, and all of our vendor members, we wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We hope your holidays are filled with love, joy, happiness and plenty of turkey on your table!

Winter is Here!

Turkey barn and feed mill in the snow and cold | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #turkeyeveryday #thankafarmer

Keeping a constant eye on the changes in the weather is something I have gotten really good at over the last 10+ years.  Thanks to modern technology, it is very simple to do from anywhere.  We use smart phones, tablets and computers to check if temperature patterns or winds will change over the course of a day or especially overnight.

Turkeys are very susceptible to changes in temperature and changes in wind direction.  Our barns do have some automatic curtains and fans and heaters are set to start and stop according to conditions in the barns but many barns still have some doors and vents that are manually opened and closed each day.  This is the most important job a turkey grower has: manage the air in the barns.

We have a philosophy that there are three things that a turkey farmer needs to be able to successfully manage to make sure conditions are right for the birds to meet their optimal growth potential.  They are:

  1. Air Conditions
  2. Water Quality and Availability
  3. Feed Quality and Availability

The bottom line for turkey growers is greatly affected by the management of these.  USUALLY, the larger the bird at market, the better the return and I don’t know of too many farmers, or any business owners, who don’t do what they do in order to make a profit.

All this being said the last week has been tough to look at the weather. Winters can be tough doing what we do. When cold spells come there usually is a similar pattern, and I have to cope with extended forecasts. I first look ahead and see that it is going to start getting cold. Then I recheck the forecast later that day or within the next couple days to see if they made a mistake. Then I usually get sick of thinking about what is to come and concentrate on what we have to do to be ready to handle it.

Making sure all heaters are working, making sure all doors, vents etc. are sealed up good are some of the things we check on when weather turns bitterly cold.  Rearranging plans we had for outside projects, moving birds from barn to barn, rebedding barns with wood shavings to keep them dry, and anything that can be rescheduled for a better time are usually done when it works.  Sometimes schedules do not allow us to do this, so we have to do bear down and do it in the cold but we always try to keep in mind what is best for people and turkeys. Storms and extreme weather patterns make for some very long days at times so we also have to be sure to manage our own well-being. I am always grateful for the efforts put forth by people who work for us but during times like these that my gratitude goes to another level.

Please remember as you buy and consume meat protein products that there are countless hours involved in getting these products to you and a lot of these efforts never get recognized, in fact, they are more often scrutinized. Please take the time to thank farmers for what they provide for all of us.  As I said in my last blog post, I am “Proud to be a Part of the Ag Industry”.

Merry Christmas!

Pete