I just made up that word: worstbest.
Worstbest describes something that you simultaneously dread and look forward to. Something that you hate but also love. Something that is the worst and the best, all at once.
When I was teaching, the first day of school was the worstbest. All summer long, I dreaded it. But once it came, I was super excited.
Pacifiers are the worstbest. They save your sanity for a few months and then make you crazy as you try to figure out how to pry them out of your toddler’s life.
The worstbest month is December. Christmas = best. Winter = worst. (That’s not to be confused with January. January is just the worst.)
And the worstbest part of raising turkeys? Loading them out to market.
It’s the worst because it’s a lot of work. It’s not always easy to get a 45 pound turkey to go where you want him to. And all those turkeys moving stir up a lot of dust. Plus, the turkeys are loaded out at night, so that they arrive at the processor first thing in the morning and don’t have to wait on the truck too long. Good for the turkeys. Not so good for the farmer.
The trucks line up at sunset – it takes 18-20 semis to take all of our turkeys to market.
Inside the barns, the turkeys wait for their turn to leave. You can see that even at their largest, they still have plenty of room to move around. (By the way, remember that these turkeys reach their 45 pound weight without steroids or hormones. Great nutrition and breeding help them get this big.)
A specially trained “loading crew” works with Bart. They shake the big orange plastic bags at the birds to “herd” them toward the load out door.
When a group of turkeys is on the right path, the crew stands back and lets them move at their own pace towards the door. The turkeys’ movement stirs up dust, which is why this photo is sort of fuzzy.
Outside the barns, a special machine, like a conveyor belt that can be raised and lowered, is used to get the turkeys from the barn to the truck.
At the top of the escalator, two members of the load out crew are there to make sure the turkeys make it safely into the truck.
When it’s really cold, panels are added to the side of the truck to protect the turkeys. I took these pictures on a mild November day.
So yeah, loading out turkeys is unpleasant. It’s hard work. It goes late into the night. It’s dusty. It’s the worst.
But it’s also the best. It’s the best because it means that 20 weeks, almost 5 months, of work is finally paying off. It’s the end of the cycle. It’s a successful flock. It’s the feeling of intense satisfaction that comes from seeing something through, from start to finish.
It’s the worstbest part of raising turkeys.
(By the way, want to see what happens after they leave the farm? I thought this video from Temple Grandin was FASCINATING! If you’re reading this in email or a feed reader, you might have to click over to see the video.)