Currently on the farm, we are experiencing a bit of “down time.” Although this down time was nice on Christmas day, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do and we’re sitting around drinking coffee, relaxing the days away.
What is this down time, you may ask? Recently, our flock of hens were done laying eggs, and were sent to market to be harvested for meat (these hens will be further processed into products such as ground turkey or deli turkey sandwiches). No hens laying eggs means no eggs to collect every day on the farm. The empty barns need to be cleaned out and disinfected, getting everything ready for the next flock. The poultry litter (manure and bedding) is removed and later used as fertilizer on our fields. We use skid loaders to remove the poultry litter, however there are plenty of areas in our barns where we need to use a pitch fork to manually remove the poultry litter, too.
After the poultry litter is completely removed, the barns need to be washed. This is done by using a tank sprayer pulled on a wagon and a power washer sprayer – every nook and cranny, even the ceiling, must be cleaned. After the barns are washed out, they are disinfected. Cleaning and disinfecting barns with water in the harsh Minnesota winter can be challenging; we keep an eye on the weather and try to schedule it for a warm winter day, but mother nature isn’t always in tune with our schedule on the farm.
Even though there aren’t turkeys in the barns, our employees still wear coveralls and their farm-specific shoes under rubber boots while in the barn. During the process of removing the poultry litter and cleaning, we make sure to close up the barns at night, ensuring we don’t welcome any wild animals to make a new home. It is common for wild animals, such as skunks or birds, to carry diseases that would potentially threaten the health of our birds. It is very important to still practice good biosecurity (keeping the inside of the barn clean by keeping outside bacteria out). We are working hard to prepare the barns for the next flock – remember, bird health is our number one priority!
At the end of January, our next flock will start laying eggs. These hens come to our farm when they are a day old (baby turkeys are called poults) and stay on our farm until they are done laying eggs. This down time provides us time to vaccinate those hens. Vaccinations are one of our biggest tools in the tool box we use to help keep our hens healthy.
By cleaning out our barns, vaccinating our hens, and catching up on other projects during this down time, we are able to provide work to our full-time employees who normally collect eggs every day.
There’s never a dull moment on the farm!