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Turkey Production: General Management Practices

Turkey production is a popular aspect of poultry farming that comes with plenty of opportunities for agribusiness starters to venture in to meet the demand for a good source of quality protein.
To better understand the life of a turkey and gain knowledge about raising turkeys from day old till maturity, we had an online training on the 26th of August, 2020. There, Mr Opeyemi Afeluyi, the facilitator discussed on the general management practices in turkey production.

Meet the Facilitator

Mr Opeyemi is a successful Graduate Animal Scientist, Chief Consultant at DIY Agric Consult. He is also a Writer and a Blogger.
He started his journey of poultry farming at the age of six, and he is now known for his knack for teaching Sustainable Agriculture in its basic form.
Mr Opeyemi’s passion for Sustainable Agriculture caused him to delve into Organic Poultry Farming for which he has been a resource person. With his vast knowledge and wealth of experience in the poultry industry, he has thoughtfully documented invaluable guides and training manuals that have helped thousands of farmers across the country and internationally. He freely shares tips on profitable farming through his blogs.
He trained us on the General Management Practices in Turkey Production using the following highlights:

Terminologies in Turkey Production

  • Snood or Dew Bill: The fleshy protuberance near the base of the beak.
  • Caruncles: The fleshy protuberance on the head and neck, usually pink or red in colour (depending on the birds’ mood), which appear from about 5th week of age.
  • Dewlap: A large flap skin seen immediately below the chin.
  • Strutting: Mating behaviour of male turkey, a show of dominance, spreading the wings and the tail feathers.
  • Poult: Very young turkey (male or female).
  • Jake: Young male turkey.
  • Hen Poult: Young female turkey.
  • Tom: Mature male turkey.
  • Hen: Mature female turkey.
  • Capon: Castrated male turkey.
  • Flock: Group of turkeys.
  • Turkey/Poultry: Meat from turkeys.

Breeds of Turkeys

There are two common breeds of turkey, namely: 

  1. Heritage or Local Turkey, and
  2. Hybrid or Exotic Turkey

Heritage or Indigenous TurkeysThey are the old-style varieties that can naturally mate. They are long-lived and graded as being hardy and are like the modern-day local fowl. They are very good for breeding purposes, but if you wish to use heritage turkeys for meat birds, it will take 8-9 months to grow them to market/table size.
Heritage turkeys are much more disease-resistant than the broad-breasted varieties and will do well on free-range or in pens.

Hybrid or Exotic Turkey: The broad-breasted varieties or Nicholas are typically used only for meat, so they are not meant to be raised beyond 16 to 20 weeks of age. They are very docile, need a lot of attention and extra care. They are seen as the modern-day broilers. They rarely mate because they are overweight. However, artificial insemination is used where fertile eggs are needed.
Nicholas breed of turkey is susceptible to disease and consume a lot of feed.

Turkey Rearing Systems

As a farmer, you can choose how you rear your turkeys based on the available resources and your desired outcome.
There are three principal rearing systems, and a lot of other decisions will depend on which rearing system you choose.

Free-Range System

The turkeys are allowed to roam about and forage, which means they have access to pasture and can exercise during the day.

Advantages

  • Lowest investment
  • The disease is controlled by moving
  • Natural shade can be used

Disadvantages

  • Increased risk of loss due to storms, theft, and predators
  • More land area is required
  • Adverse weather can affect their production

Semi Confinement System

Advantages

  • Reduced risk of loss
  • Closer supervision
  • Improvement in gain and feed conversion

Disadvantages

  • Increased investment in structures
  • More management skill needed

Confinement System

Advantages

  • Minimum risk of loss
  • Low labour requirement of turkeys
  • Close supervision of flock is possible
  • Sick turkeys can be spotted easily and quickly
  • Maximum gains and yield per turkey is attainable

Disadvantages

  • Much higher investment needed
  • Ventilation of structures becomes an issue to address
  • Disease prevention is essential
  • Overcrowding can lead to problems and deaths

Turkey Sexing

Turkey sexing is a challenge to many. The ability to distinguish between a male and a female turkey is often learned through experience. It is easier when the turkeys are mature, but when they are young, even a lot of experienced farmers make mistakes.

Click here to watch this video that explains one of the ways to sex a poult turkey.

Turkey Housing

Turkeys are more fragile and vulnerable in the first few weeks of their existence, so you need to do everything possible to give them comfort. Good planning of housing will help you achieve many of these things. So, take your time to prepare the house.

A typical turkey house is supposed to protect the turkeys form sun, rain, wind, predators, and provide comfort. Anything short of this is not good housing.
The long axis of the house should run from East to West. This east-west orientation prevents the sun from heating a larger portion of the house for a long period during the day

Brooding of Poults

Brooding refers to the period immediately after hatch when special care and attention must be given to poults to ensure their health and survival. It encompasses all management activities including the provision of warmth, feed, and medication.

One would be right to say that brooding is the same for poults and chicks, however, there are a few things that you need to know about poults’ brooding. Brooding of poults is the most sensitive and critical part of raising turkeys.
You can get the ebook on The Master Turkey Manual to get a hang of Turkey Brooding.

Tips on Turkey Brooding

  • Don’t use sawdust. Poults are very stupid and they might think it is food.
  • It’s better to raise some broilers with poults. They will teach them to eat.
  • Make sure poults drink water so they don’t dehydrate. This is one of the most common causes of deaths during brooding.   

Brooding Equipment

Turkey Nutrition

The decisions you make on turkey feeding can make or mar your business. Essentially, turkeys require much higher protein than chickens, and many people make the mistake to give their turkeys chicken feed. This will not only hinder them from growing to their full capacity, but it can also open doors to diseases as they will have a weakened immune system.

So, for feed, you need to get feeds that are specially formulated for turkeys. There are classes of turkey feed, that is starter, grower and finisher stage.

Questions

Question“At what weeks are this feed given?” – Toyin
Response:  Turkey Starter Diet: 0-8 weeks; Turkey Grower Diet: 8-29 weeks; Turkey Finisher Diet: 30 weeks till you sell.

Question: “What’s your take on mixing soybean (cracked corn) for true turkey feeds, sir?” – Quadri
Response: If you are referring to Full Fat Soybean, it can be added at the recommended ratio. You don’t just add to already formulated or finished feed without knowing the quantity of soybean added before. There is a recommended maximum for the ingredient, which is about 20%.

QuestionWhat are the organic medications for turkey?
Response: Most of the organic medications for chickens also work for turkeys. You can get “Your Complete Guide to Organic Poultry Farming” eBook for that. 

Question: “How many Kg of feed does a turkey consume from day-old to maturity?” – Khalil  
Response: This depends on the breed and individual target. But be prepared to use close to twice the weight of the turkey. However, male turkeys convert feed to flesh better. More details are explained in the eBook.  

Question: “What’s the best way to avoid fowlpox in turkeys?”- Peace 
Response: Vaccination. There is a vaccine for fowl pox.

Question: “For the beginners, what are necessary things to place such as how many sizes of land and dimension of the cage? – Olusegun
Response: You need 3-4sqft per turkey.

Question: Concerning brooding turkey poults, kindly suggest an alternative to sawdust since you already advised against it.” – Herald 
Response: Wood shavings are perfect, sawdust is the dust (small particles) and it is not good.

Question: “What is your estimated weight up to 20 weeks on organic feeds?” – Muffis
Response: Except you are producing your corn, and other ingredients yourself, and you can be sure that all the ingredients are organically grown. You cannot treat your corn with chemicals and call the feed produced from it an organic feed.

Question: “How do I differentiate a foreign turkey day-old chick from local turkey day old chick?” – Osas
Response: Usually the size. Imported poults can be slower too.

Question: When you say confinement, do you mean putting them in a battery cage?
Response: I mean either in a cage or a turkey pen/house, which is different from when they are on a large pasture.

Question: Are turkeys in high demand year-round or is the demand seasonal? If seasonal, when is high season, please? – B.N.B.
Response: The turkey market is usually massive during festive periods, but with the ban on the importation, farmers have seen a reasonable rise in demand year-round too.

Question: Can 2 Toms live together in the same cage without worrying about them fighting to the death?” – Osas
Response: It is possible but rare, especially when a female is also involved. Then carry out Claw Clipping, which is the removal of toenails and usually done at the hatchery but it can also be done at 5-week old. This is to prevent tearing of flesh during fight and mating. The most common form of toe clipping involves cutting the inside and middle toe on each foot. Toes can be cut with surgical scissors, a nail clipper or a modified hot-blade debeaking.

Question: “What are the feed formulas for turkey. Also, is there starter, grower and finisher feed for turkey as in broiler too?” – Olusegun
Response: The eBook has the formula in it. And yes, we have the starter, grower, and finisher turkey feed.

Question: How does one get turkey eggs for hatchery since the Nicholas hardly mate? 
Response: Fertilize their female turkey through Artificial Insemination. You can learn this and practice on your farm to get fertilized eggs.

Question: What is the hatchery duration of turkey’s eggs? 
Response: 28 days

Question: Considering the electricity situation of Nigeria, how does one mitigate against a break in hatchery period in case there is power interruption?
Response: You can get an incubator with inbuilt inverter accessories. Also. there are types you can run on a car battery. The charger unit charges it, and when light is off, the machine runs smoothly on battery. 

2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Olajide Olasunkanmi-faleye September 25, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Please when is the next training on parents stock and hatchery coming up

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