Almost Turkey Time!

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by Thunder5Ranch, Nov 2, 2016.

  1. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Turkeys are a very often missed part of a small farm or homestead. They are also one of the most cost effective sources of meat. They are a bit tricky to propagate and get to 4-5 weeks old if you incubate and brood house them. They are a piece of cake after that, barring foxes, bobcats and coyotes. I started my flock quite by accident when a friend was sick of them tearing her garden up, and the final straw for her was when the 16 turkeys were following her two row corn planter.... scratching up the sweet corn seeds and eating them :) She called me and asked if I wanted the damn things.

    Over the years those 16 turned into 250-400 in the flocks, what started out as pure white broadbreasted whites crossed with some of the wild population and I collected more turkeys from folks that thought they were a great idea but later realized they didn't have the space for them. I don't fence them in and don't even actively feed them, although they raid the pasture feeders for the pigs about every other day. They pretty much stay over on the 40 acre pasture and woods to the west of me that I lease. I do start taking 5 gallon buckets of cracked corn to them daily September through October so that when they see a bucket they will follow it to hades if it means a free meal. It makes it easy to lead them into the catch pens in the woods over there the week before Thanksgiving. In the catch pens we sort them and harvest 2/3s of the flock being particularly hard on the toms. Then load the culled birds onto a utility trailer I welded a big cage on to and they head to our poultry processing facility at the main farm. We typically harvest 150-200 of the flock for processing depending on the flock size. Like two years ago a momma bobcat and two of her not quite mature kittens moved in and killed the hell out of the flock in the roost trees. So we only harvested 30 birds and left more in the flock to repopulate. Looks around nervously.... No idea what happened to the bobcats.....

    We start taking reserves locally for our Turkeys in August for November and December Delivery for 100 birds. Folks must like out turkeys because the reserve list is usually filled by August 3rd. Anything over the 100 we put toward the reserve list overflow and any left after that we advertise and sell in the farm store at market. We are on the low side of the turkey pricing for direct market pasture raised birds at $2.75 per pound in the bag. But I literally have nothing into them other than a little training corn, and the time to round them up, sort them and process them.

    We have a fairly modern small poultry processing facility with tub pluckers, kill cones, temp controlled scalders and the entire store kitchen gets devoted to the clean side processing for a week. We can process 60-70 Turkeys per hour with help or I can do at best 15 per hour by myself. Chickens on the other hand we can do 250 per hour with a full crew helping.

    Nothing is wasted the heads, feet and guts are boiled and congealed and rationed out to the pigs. The feathers are mixed into the compost piles, our compost piles are a little bigger than most and typically have 30,000-40,000 pounds of organic material in them. The blood from the kill cone trough is hot dehydrated at 160 degrees. and then crumbled into blood meal to give a N and Iron Boost to the gardens. We dabbled with heating the feet and heads and grinding it to make a version of bone meal but it just is not worth the effort.

    All in all Turkeys can be very cheap to raise if scaled to your available forage and space. Our birds run from 14 pounds to 28 pounds dressed and in the bag. On a average year they bring $9,000-$10,000 additional income onto my little farm for what amounts to about a weeks worth of work. Even scaling down to say 10 turkeys that average 15 pounds dressed =150 pounds x $2.75 = $412.50 for around 6 hours of work processing, small scale but equates to $68.75 per hour invested. Even if you just raise them for your own freezer you are money ahead. Where you can get into trouble is buying turkeys from a hatchery at $6.00-$12.00 per chick. I am very good at getting them to 4-6 weeks old and still have hatches that run 30% mortality losses for the ones I incubate. The pasture nesters run about 50% mortality but are not sucking electric and feed until they are old enough to strike out on their own like the incubated chicks.

    The best things about Turkeys are they are primarily a seasonal product, they have a low time and money investment and they will reproduce on their own if you select the right breeds. Even if you feed them they convert feed to meat more efficiently than even chickens and they grow fast. I hand raised a couple of broad breasted bronze toms one year and got them up to 39 and 42 pounds dressed at a cost of $63.80 in feed. Sadly the oven was not even close to big enough to hold one of them whole and had to halve them to bake them :)

    Took this picture two years ago while one of the flocks was following me errr the bucket to the catch pen. Everything from Royal Palms, Narragansettes, Spanish Blacks and blue slates with everything inbetween mixed into my flocks.

  2. GOG

    GOG Free American Monkey Site Supporter

    Thank you @Thunder5Ranch for the write up. Although I left the city life behind some years ago I still consider myself at the low end of the learning curve. Threads like this are like diamonds to me.
    Thunder5Ranch likes this.
  3. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    Cattle, hogs, chickens, garden plants, turkey's, are all alike. You can the latest greatest quickest growing super etc and have to buy the seeds, young, etc or you can go with one of the "heritage" breeds that still self reproduces and raise your own seeds, animals, birds etc. The white ones grow quick, etc, but don't reproduce well. The wild turkey's in my back yard have the reproduction and survival skills down to a fine art but are small and fly. They only nest a day or so week in the nest tree I see from my bedroom window. Mr Bobcat may get one but the next day they are somewhere else. There are some excellent choices in the heritage breeds and the only advise I have is buying the breeding stock from someone in your neighborhood who has went thru the learning process. Good luck.
    GOG likes this.
  4. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Thanks :) I got side tracked writing it and missed some key things in places. Like the sheer volume of meat they make per bird vs cost to put that meat on them, the only thing that comes close to feed efficiency are Cornish Cross Chickens. Also where I was going with the small scale is even 10 can make a nice bit of bonus income for the holidays without a lot of effort. I have yet to meet a homesteader or small farmer that can't use a little financial boost here and there. And folks love fresh off the farm/homestead Turkeys and will pay well above premium price for them. Depending on your State there is the Federal Poultry Processing Exemption, some States Like IL. have their own stricter version of it and other States just follow the USDA Federal law for it. But basically you can process Poultry and Rabbits from your own flocks, on the farm in a inspected facility. The numbers vary by state to state and from State to Fed but in IL. I can process up to 5,000 in any combination chickens, turkeys, rabbits, quail, pheasant or ducks as long as the total number does not exceed 5000 and they have to be sold direct from the farm. The exempt part is you are not required to have a state or federal inspector present during processing or use a official inspection legend on the packaging. Don't ask me how rabbits got to be considered poultry for the exemption :) My Meat and Poultry Compliance officer that inspects my facilities can't even answer that one.
    Cruisin Sloth likes this.
  5. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Turkeys don't nest in trees :) they nest on the ground ;)
    Cruisin Sloth likes this.
  6. GOG

    GOG Free American Monkey Site Supporter

    There's quite a few wild turkey flocks around here. It's not unusual for them to slow down or stop traffic.
  7. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Since the wild Turkeys were heavily reintroduced to IL. they have done very well. I know my semi wild flock has absorbed more than a few into the flock.
  8. runswithdogs

    runswithdogs Monkey+++

    Wrong... The best thing about turkeys is they're TASTY with cranberry sauce!
    GOG and ghrit like this.
  9. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    LOL can't disagree with that, but from a producers standpoint the best thing is minimal effort for maximum return.
    Cruisin Sloth and GOG like this.
  10. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey Site Supporter++

    Another great article @Thunder5Ranch . I especially like how you factor in the economics on these.
    Thunder5Ranch and GOG like this.
  11. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    I like to see people earn a fair wage from their homesteads/Small Farms. I also own Regional Producer Farmers' Markets here in Southern IL. and deal with a lot of small and very small farmers and homesteaders as market vendors. Not to be insulting but 98% are very good at growing, baking, crafting, soap making, and other market stuff. But Very weak on the marketing and Business side of it. Nothing more frustrating than to see someone with a good product that they worked hard to produce break even or at worst lose money on every sale because they don't take into account every cent of overhead that goes into producing their product. Then get discouraged because they on the surface think they are getting ahead but can't figure out why they are slipping into the red or holding even.

    Eggs are a good example around here no one is going to pay more than $3 per dozen for eggs, by the time you figure in feed, housing, egg license, refrigeration, fuel to transport to markets, electric, insurance, wear and tear on the vehicle, wormer and parasite control, the water bill for washing, the water bill for watering, the twice per year water testing, the egg scale, the approved candling light, the water the hens drink and egg cartons and labels. (I am also a fully licensed Grading Station and Egg Broker) You are about $2.19 in production cost per dozen eggs with 500 hens laying a average of 6 eggs per week each. 250 dozen eggs per week on a good flock of 500 birds..... .81 cents per dozen profit x 250 gives you a whopping $202.50 per week in egg income 10 months out of the year (Taking the molt time out) Most of the smaller egg vendors 50-200 birds sell their eggs at $2.00-$2.50 then get frustrated that they are not making any money or not even paying for the cost to produce the eggs. I Sell my eggs $2.75-$3.50 in and of itself even selling 500 dozen eggs per week is not worthwhile in comparison to other things like Bacon, brats and other sausages........ but having the eggs triples the sales of the Bacon and Sausages. See so many folks with good sales numbers on the surface, that struggle to understand good sales does not mean net profit or a good hourly wage to pay yourself.
    GOG, Cruisin Sloth and 3M-TA3 like this.
  12. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey Site Supporter++

    You listed a lot of overhead I think many people would miss and then not understand why they were bleeding money. I like the use of eggs as a loss leader. We did that back when I sold produce - I didn't get to pick the loss leader, but learned to merchandise higher profit items that worked with the sale item.

    My goals are more along the lines of self sufficiency than a business, but the economics still come into play regardless of scale. To a large extent it's almost as cheap (sometimes cheaper) and a lot easier to go to the store than to grow your own, but I'm not sure how long that will last.
    GOG, Thunder5Ranch and Cruisin Sloth like this.
  13. Cruisin Sloth

    Cruisin Sloth Special & Slow

    All posts 100% , great to see the MATH also , as we do also
    Living the Dream ,With rubber boots most days!

    Thunder5Ranch and ghrit like this.
  14. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Exactly the economics are the same whether small or larger scale. It totally is not worth my time or effort to grow wheat and mill flour, when I can go to the store and buy it for a fraction of what I can do the whole process for. And eggs are such a low profit margin item, you are right a lead loss is their best use, I can't count the number of times someone has came to get just eggs and left with a pound of breakfast sausage, a pound of bacon, a package of cinnamon RollZ, and a loaf or two of bread. LOL my goal was to just be a self sufficient hermit out here, when I relocated the farm. Then started selling the surplus to a few people, then a few more people then 600 people, then getting irked at the protectionist markets and cut throats and it all got out of hand and now I have to schedule my introvert time :)

    So you have had the 12 month long MUD season as well :)
    Cruisin Sloth and 3M-TA3 like this.
  15. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    With produce I like to use radishes or carrots as the lead loss, $1.00 for a bunch of 15-18 radishes or $2.00 bunch of carrots and then think hey cucumber, lettuce and maybe some of that nasty ass kale. Sorry I hate Kale, everyone tells me I grow great kale, but no matter how I try it.... The stuff taste like composted grass clippings from dog park to me.
    3M-TA3 likes this.
  16. Cruisin Sloth

    Cruisin Sloth Special & Slow

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