Turkeys are reared for meat only and the meat is the leanest among other domestic avian species.The turkey is a large bird in the genus Meleagris, which is native to the Americas. The genus has two extant species, the wild turkey of eastern and central North America and the ocellated turkey of the Yucatán Peninsula. Turkeys are adaptable to a wide variety of climatic conditions and can be raised worldwide if their nutritional requirements are met.
Turkey eggs are a rare product because these birds are grown primarily for dietary meat. Females begin producing eggs around 28 weeks of age and will lay efficiently for 26 weeks. Eggs weigh an average of 70-100g and have a conical shape, light brown or white shell with speckles. Eggs should be collected frequently to prevent soiling and breakage and also to get better hatchability.
Why breed turkeys?
Turkeys do not require much investment as they are naturally not too demanding in terms of breeding. They are disease tolerant and can be raised under free range or semi intensive or intensive system. Free range system reduces the feed cost by fifty percent as they consume earthworms, small insects, snails, kitchen waste and termites, which are rich in protein .Ten percent of feed, can be substituted with vegetable waste to reduce the cost of feed. 1 acre of fenced land can rear 200-300 adult turkeys .
Turkeys also have a high feed conversion efficiency as they gain 30 grams of meat from 100 grams of feed. The meat is low on cholesterol and high in protein.
Tips on how to breed turkeys
For commercial production, turkeys are raised under intensive conditions similar to those of broiler chickens. Poultry houses can be open-sided and rely on natural ventilation or environmentally controlled .Factors to consider in constructing a commercial turkey house include orientation that should be east west usually with respect to the sun and prevailing winds. Any length could be used but width should not exceed 10 m especially if open-sided houses are used. Optimum distance of 20m is a reasonable distance from other houses to minimize disease spread. The floor of the houses should be cheap, durable, easy to clean, and disinfect and safe preferably concrete with moisture proof.
The methods of feeding are mash feeding and pellet feeding .The energy, protein, vitamin and mineral requirements for turkeys are high as compared to chickens .Since the energy and protein requirements for the both sexes vary they must be reared separately for better results. Feed should be given in feeders and not on the ground. Whenever change is made from one diet to another it should be carried out gradually. Water should always be available. Provide shell grit at the rate of 30-40 g/day/bird to avoid the leg weakness.
Turkeys should be protected from predators during scavenging .Planting of trees is desirable for providing shade and cooler environment .The range should be rotated which will help to reduce incidence of parasite infestation .Calcium should be supplemented at the rate of 250 g per week per bird to avoid leg weakness. Deworming and dipping once a month is essential to improve the growth of the birds against external and internal parasites.
Properly building a house for Turkeys improves production efficiency, better management and disease control .Housing protects turkeys from the sun, rain, wind, predators and provides comfort .Open house width should not exceed 9 m and height may range from 2.6 – 3.3 m from the floor to roof. Housing should provide protection from predators, reduces the spread of pathogens. In the case of small flocks, simple structures may be built using locally available material.
Turkeys sexually mature by age of 7 months. It’s recommended for them to be mated immediately to maximize their productivity. Natural mating with the male to female ratio is 1:5 for medium type turkeys and 1:3 for large type’s .Males have reduced fertility after 1st year and need to be changed for every 15d as they tend to develop affinity towards a particular female. Natural mating puts the female at risk of injury. Artificial insemination can also be done especially under commercial production. The advantage of artificial insemination is to maintain high fertility from turkey flock throughout the season. Males are raised in floor pens at separate facilities.
When to slaughter your Turkey for business
Market age is determined by the product being produced. They can be sold as weights start to range from 2.5 to 5.0 kg plus in size (dressed weight).Hens are marketed between 14 and 16 weeks of age .At this age hens will typically weigh from 3.6 kg to 7.2 kg .The males (Toms) are often marketed between 17 and 20 weeks of age and weigh about 10 to 18 kgs. Once they are slaughtered, the feathers, offal, head, legs, and other items are removed leaving a whole dressed carcass ready for sale or to send onto further processing. In conclusion it’s important to plan and consult specialist and determine market demands before you venture into the project.