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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

Meet Pete Klaphake – Proud to be Part of the Ag Industry

Meet Turkey Farmer Pete Klaphake | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #minnesotaturkey #turkeyeveryday #turkeyfarming

The Klaphake brothers, their sons, and their father – photo taken a few years ago on one of the family’s farms.

As way of introduction, my name is Pete Klaphake and I am a third generation turkey farmer from Melroe, MN.  I am part owner of Klaphake Feed Mill, Inc and R&L Turkeys.  We raise around 30 million pounds of hen turkeys primarily marketed as frozen whole birds you find in the freezers of grocery stores.  We also manufacture and haul all the feed our birds consume out of our feed mill.

I am personally involved in running the day to day operations of the turkey farm side of our business.  I do this with my dad, Rick, and my cousin Ashley’s husband, Matt.  Our feed mill is run by my uncle, Leon, and his son, Chris.  My mom, Deb, my aunt, Mary, and her daughter Ashley help keep our office running smoothly.  We employ around 25 people between the farms and mill.

Our operation is a combination of 33 fully owned barns, 6 partially owned barns, and 6 leased or contracted barns on 14 farms.  All of our farms are in the central Minnesota area.  We try to keep as many of our farms with single age birds to help control disease.  This means all the birds on most of our sights were usually hatched within 1 day of each other.

I grew up working on our farms, however, I never thought this is what I would do for a living.  I graduated from St. John’s University in 1999 and still had no plans of becoming a farmer.  It took less than 6 months after graduation to change my mind.  I was sick of tying ties and polishing shoes.  I missed being outdoors and lacing up work boots.  It was a tough decision and there were some days I regretted it at first, but looking back now it was one of my best.  I truly do love what I do especially when I get to care for the birds.

Turkey farming is a very demanding lifestyle.  Live animals need attention 24-7 and we have always have birds somewhere in our operation 365 days a year.  Also, there has been a lot more paperwork and record keeping that has come along with what we do.  It can be difficult at times to keep up what is going on with my family.  I am lucky to have a wife who keeps things in line at home.  Her name is Brenda and fortunately, she grew up on a dairy farm.  She understands the farming lifestyle and what it is like to care for live animals.  She realizes I might not be home some nights till our children are in bed or she might have to pick them up at one of the farms when she is done working because I still have a few hours to work to finish. This makes things go so much smoother in our lives.

Meet Turkey Farmer Pete Klaphake | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #minnesotaturkey #turkeyeveryday #turkeyfarming

Pete and Brenda and their three spunky children!

We have 3 spunky children: Abby who is 8, Wyatt who is 6, and Isaac who is 3.  We live on one of our farms between Sauk Centre and Melrose.  They love living in the country and the boys like to go with me to check the birds quite a bit (I am still trying to work on getting Abby to help more but she is better at coming up with reasons to stay out of the barns than I am at getting her to step foot in).  This is by far the best part of turkey farming.  Being able to enjoy the ups and downs with family.  To help control something that was started over 50 years ago, try not to screw it up too much and maybe have the potential to pass it on to another generation.

Meet Turkey Farmer Pete Klaphake | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #minnesotaturkey #turkeyeveryday #turkeyfarming

Growing up on a turkey farm definitely has its perks! :)

I look forward to continuing to share with you various aspects about our industry.  My goal in deciding to do this is that we are able to make readers aware of the time and care we put into our birds and why you should feel confident in choosing to put our product in your shopping cart or on your plates.  I want to be open on topics and issues we face in our industry and how they affect all of us.  My family eats a lot of turkey and we wouldn’t if we didn’t think it was safe.

Our feed trucks have a logo on the side of them that says, “Proud to be Part of the Ag Industry”.  Such a simple statement but it has never been more true than right now.  If you eat turkey often, thank you.  If you don’t, please try it, you might be surprised.

Pete