The turkey growing season is behind us! When the season started, we were so excited because of how well our first year with the turkeys went. This year we are excited to be over with the season and hope that next year goes a little smoother.
It is just life, sometimes things don’t go as well as we hope and plan for and we just have to adjust and do the best that we can. That was the story of the turkeys this year.
From the start there were hiccups. The hatchery we were supposed to get the turkeys from called the week before they were due to arrive, and told us: “Sorry, but we aren’t doing turkeys this year. I realize it’s a little late to be letting you know…”. Insert panic mode! We had placed our turkey order at the start of the year to avoid last minute rush around trying to find a hatchery with some birds. Especially this year with all the bird flu going around, I was very concerned!
Thankfully though they had a number to a hatchery out of Pennsylvania that “might” have some available. After a few days of calling, we were able to get on their list for 100 birds, they would be all toms and arriving a week later than we had planned.
I figure that should be okay, I already had my processing date, and we were supposed to have the birds for 15 weeks because last years 16 weeks resulted in huge 23lb birds that only a few wanted. Well with 1 more week cut off, we were only going to have them for 14 weeks, I still figured should be okay. All toms would mean they should grow a little better and should still get to the desired 15-17lbs.
The turkeys arrive with no problems, healthy and happy with the warmer weather right up their ally! They go right to eating and drinking, we check on them multiple times a day and talk to them because we were told turkeys thrive with attention!
All goes well in the brooder, only a couple didn’t make it, which is very standard. We get their portable shelter built and some new hotwire netting in and we move them outside right at the 5-week mark. It is a pretty hot year, so we move them in the shade of some big trees, and they just flat love being outside! We get a new guard dog to watch them at night and everything seems to be going pretty good.
About halfway through, we start to notice that they aren’t quite as big as we think they should be by this time. So, we call the feed mill that we are getting this more expensive organic non-GMO feed from and ask for a little higher protein feed. They were on 23% so we figured to bump them up to 25% or so should help.
Well, turned out that if you are going to feed poultry roasted soybeans (a very high-quality ingredient) that you have to make sure the soybeans are roasted enough. Otherwise, they are a growth inhibitor to the poultry. Finally, an answer to why our turkeys and final batch of chickens simply weren’t growing! Unfortunately, we didn’t find this out until we dropped the turkeys off at the processors and I started talking to the owners there that also raise pasture poultry.
When the birds weren’t growing, I tried to do my research and figure out what the problem might be, but all I could find online was roasted soybeans are good whole food option for feed. Looking back now, I see other avenues we could have/should have tried, but at the time they didn’t occur to us.
The end result is our turkeys weighed an average of 10.4lbs, which a lot of our customers are happy about! That is at least the silver lining, as long as our customers are happy, we are happy. It does just cut into our income because when you sell a product by weight, they need to make a certain weight to pay for all their expenses.
Needless to say, these last 4 months have been a huge lesson, one we will never forget, and we won’t make the same mistakes again! I have always felt I learned more from when things went wrong then I ever learned from when they went right. And who knows, maybe this small hiccup will save us big time in the future!
Thank you so much for following our story, we couldn’t be doing this without you, and I hope you have the most wonderful Thanksgiving!!