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  • Writer's pictureCliff McConville

Turkey Update and FAQs

With just two weeks to go before Thanksgiving we are getting lots of calls and emails about turkeys so we felt like an update was in order. The good news.... we have plenty of turkeys available at the farm store for walk-in customers right now and through next week. No pre-order or reservation required, just stop by the store this week or next and pick from the more than 150 frozen turkeys we have available. Read on for more details about about the sizes, processing days, shipping, and more turkey trivia.

How do we raise our turkeys?

Our first batch of turkey poults (day old turkeys) arrived on the farm in late July and our goal was to get 625 turkeys onto customer dinner tables for Thanksgiving. They spend about three weeks in the brooder house, where we provide them with supplemental heat for the first two weeks along with a high protein certified organic feed mix. At about 3 weeks of age they are able to jump/fly over the 30" walls of the brooder boxes and are running all over the brooder house, so we then transfer them out to the Mobile Range Coops (MRCs) in the pasture.

These are essentially floorless greenhouses on skids that protect them from weather and predators while allowing the turkeys to forage on grass and bugs. We move the MRCs every morning so each day the turkeys can forage on a fresh patch of grass. At about seven weeks of age, the turkeys are large enough (about the size of a chicken) to move out into the pasture shelters. These are large open shelters with roosts surrounded by electrified poultry netting (see picture below). As the turkeys get bigger their organic feed mixture moves down in protein, from 26% at the beginning to 18% for the last few weeks. The bronze turkeys we raise are great foragers and they will eat pretty much anything in their paddock - grasses, bugs, clover, even most weeds. We move their paddocks and shelters three times a week so they always have fresh pasture to forage on. The wide variety of greens and bugs they ingest while foraging is the main reason our turkeys taste so much better than the store-bought turkeys that eat only corn and soybeans confined inside a giant building.

Processing Time

After some challenges early on with the poults in the brooder this year (not unusual), we were feeling pretty good going into this first processing week with about 600 live turkeys still gobbling in our pastures. We can fit up to 125 turkeys in our livestock trailer so we made five processing appointments with Twin Cities Pack in Clinton, Wisconsin back in January to get all of our turkeys in for Thanksgiving.

The first batch of 100 turkeys went in early Monday for processing, and I picked them up Tuesday morning wondering how they were going to size up. We know they were smaller than usual, given some feed challenges we have experienced. Sure enough the average weight of the first batch was about 14 lbs., with most in the small (9-12 lbs.) and medium (12-15 lbs.) with about 20 turkeys in the large range (15-18 lbs.)

We took a second load of turkeys in on Wednesday, and when I picked them up this morning was happy to see this second group was a bit heavier., with an average weight of about 15 lbs. with most in the 12 - 18 lb. ranges, and a few extra large turkeys in the 18 - 21 lb. range. When I dropped them off at the farm store this afternoon we have sold about 70 of the 225 turkeys processed thus far, so there are about 150 turkeys available at the store for walk in customers to choose from over the next few days.

Our last batch of about ~125 frozen turkeys is going into the processor next Wednesday, November 15th, so they will be back to the farm store Thursday 16th and available for customer purchase beginning at noon. I expect that group will be a bit larger as they have an extra week of grow out time on our pastures.

We can ship turkeys!

This year for the first time we are setup to ship Thanksgiving turkeys to customers within a one-day ground zone of our Dundee farm. That pretty much includes all of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and some parts of Iowa. So if you live in one of those states, you can order one of our beautiful bronze turkeys and have it delivered to your door over the next 7-10 days. Order on our website by next Tuesday, November 14th we hope to ship the last turkeys out by Wednesday 15th.

Fresh turkey update

For those of you that were on the ball early and reserved one of the 250 fresh (not frozen) turkeys this year before they were all sold out, the first group will go into the processor next Friday morning (Nov. 17th) and they will be back to the farm store by 11 AM on Saturday November 18th. Customers can pick their size from the 125 turkeys available. Look for an email with more pickup details that will come to out late next week. The last batch of fresh turkeys will go into the processor on Tuesday 21st and will be back to the farm ready for pickups by 11 AM on Wednesday 22nd. All the fresh turkeys were reserved as of early October so we don't have any available.

That's it for now, I will try to get out an update next Thursday with details on the last batch of frozen turkeys in terms of how they are sizing up. Please follow us on our Instagram Page where Anna posts photos and farm updates a few times per week. Hope to see everyone at the store or one of the last farm tours soon.

Cliff, Anna, and the Farm Team

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