This is a post that was originally posted at 3 Kids and Lots of Pigs last Friday.
Fill in the blank.
Potatoes are from Idaho, cheese is from Wisconsin, oranges are from Florida, and turkey comes from _________.
Minnesota is the top turkey growing state in the US, but directly south, here in Iowa, we have a large group of turkey farmers, as well. However, this was news to me when I met my husband back in 2002. He grew up on a turkey farm 10 miles from me, and I didn’t even know turkeys were grown in Iowa until I met him.
Now, I am wife to a 3rd generation turkey farmer and mom to the 4th generation.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, Heather asked me to write a guest post about our farm. I decided to cover just the basics, since few people know very much about raising turkeys.
Twenty thousand (20,000) male baby turkeys (poults) come to us when they are 1 day old. We unload them into a big, toasty, 90 degree barn called the “brooder.” They live there until they are about 5 weeks old. Inside the barn, there are automated feeders and waterers, which are triggered by the turkeys, so they have unlimited access to these. The temperature in the barn is controlled by a thermostat, and there are vents that open and close automatically to help adjust it if needed. The turkeys are not in cages – instead they are on sawdust bedding from a local sawmill. For the first two weeks, chores take a few hours each morning, because of the supplemental feeders and waterers that we fill by hand. We also chore the poults at night, but this is usually a quick walk through to make sure all equipment is running smoothly and that the turkeys seem comfortable.
Around 5 weeks of age, we move the turkeys to one of our two finisher sites. (This is what I did all day yesterday.) The finisher sites have two 528 foot buildings, so the turkeys have plenty of room to spread out as they grow. These barns also have automated feeders and waterers and again, the temperature is controlled for the turkeys’ comfort. Our finishers are tunnel ventilated, meaning that there are huge fans at one end that suck air through, creating up to a 10 mph breeze in the barns when necessary. (Most livestock barns have curtains instead and rely on the natural breezes to cool animals.) We also have misters that cool the birds in the summer.
The west finishers are on the left, the brooder in the middle, and the east finishers are on the right. Our 100 year old farmhouse is near the brooder, closer to the gravel road. The trees are surrounding Squaw Creek.
The turkeys stay in the finishers until they are ready for market at 19 1/2 weeks. Until then, my husband chores them twice a day, walking through to check equipment, pick up dead, and look for any signs of distress or disease. At the time they go to market, they average about 41 pounds. These are not your Thanksgiving birds! Our birds are processed for lunch meat and ground meat. In fact, the processing plant we use supplies turkey to all the Subways west of the Mississippi River!
In the meantime, we would have already started a new flock in the brooder. At 5 weeks, they would move to the OTHER finisher site. In between flocks, there is about 4 weeks to clean and disinfect, and that is actually the busiest time for us. So, every 9 weeks, we get a new flock of 20,000, and there is no break in between! We raise almost 6 flocks, or 120,000 turkeys, in one year!
If you want to know more about turkey farming, learn about the remodel of our 100 year old farmhouse, or just stop by to say hi, I’d love for you to become a follower!