I love to say that I have been in the midst of production agriculture my entire life - I live it, breathe it and write about it - but the amount I don't know always boggles my mind - so instead of answering a question I already knew the answer to I decided to ask a question and learn something new and share that!
How much do I know about turkey production?
I know a turkey farmer!
I have been in a turkey barn!
That about sums it up!
Who better to turn to than an actual turkey farmer - my amazing friend Katie who lives and raises turkeys on the banks of the Squaw Creek!
The turkeys arrive at the farm from a hatchery in Willmar, Minnesota-the birds are just one day old and only weigh a few ounces. They get 20,000 baby turkeys every two months. Their brooder house, where the turkeys live at this age, is kept at 90 degrees.
It will take about 20 weeks for the turkeys to be full grown and weigh approximately 43 pounds. Katie says turkeys are a lot bigger than they used to be because of breeding and better nutrition. There are no hormones or steroids used in turkey production.
Americans eat an average of 18 pounds of turkey every year! Half of that is sandwich meat and that is what the turkeys Olthoff's raise are used for, "further processing" - this includes lunch meat, hot dogs, and other turkey products.
And truly the most interesting thing I learned: Turkeys have a weak immune system!
Bio-security is a big deal, even stepping in bird droppings between the house and barn is a concern so everyone in the family has barn boots that are only for the turkey barns or plastic booties for anyone else entering the barns. And who knew, but chickens have a much stronger immune system so while a chicken may carry a disease without showing any signs if exposed to the turkey flock it could be devastating - so chickens are avoided by the Olthoff's at all costs!
She knows so much she even wrote a book about it!
It has two components: one part is written from the point of view of her six year old son and is meant for young children. The other part is for older kids and adults, and gives more in-depth background information about turkey farms.
It's free to download on her site at On The Banks of Squaw Creek
"My Family's Farm has been a dream of mine for over two years, since I realized that there are very few children's book showing today's livestock farms. Farms have changed over the past 50 years, but their portrayal has not. This book is an effort to change that" Katie Olthoff
Photo credit to Katie Olthoff