Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Turkey Chronicles - Chapter One

Now you all know I live on a farm. But I don't know if you know that I live on a TURKEY farm. In addition to raising beef cattle, we raise turkeys for Cargill, the largest privately held corporation in the world (I'm just full of information, aren't I?). The turkeys live their lives on our farm from just a few hours after they hatch until they make that final drive to the processing plant. When they arrive at Griffith Farms they are between 12 to 24 hours old. And they arrive in plastic crates in a climate controlled truck. The truck shows up at our farm at all different hours of the day and night. This particular flock of turkeys arrived about 9:30 p.m. We've gotten turkeys on Christmas Eve, New Year's Day, hot days, cold days, rainy days, you name it. For what it's worth, the night we got these baby turkeys it had been nearly 100 degrees during the day and was still nearly 90 degrees at 9:30 p.m. when the birds arrived. But, the baby turkeys have to be kept at about 92 degrees the first few weeks of their lives so we have propane "stoves" burning in the turkey barn to keep the chicks warm. Believe it or not, it was cooler outside than inside. Yeah, I know, why would anybody wanna be a turkey farmer :)?????

A tremendous amount of work goes into getting the barn ready for baby turkeys. We have one brooder barn, where the baby chicks will live until they are 6 or 7 weeks old. Then we have three growout barns where the birds will live out the rest of their lives, but that's another chapter in the Turkey Chronicles. First the barn is cleaned and fresh litter (wood shavings) are spread evenly all over the floor. Pens are set up using brooder guard. Then feed and water have to be put out. This is what the empty barn looks like, ready to receive baby turkeys.

And this is the empty, clean-smelling pen.

These are the crates that hold 100 baby turkeys each. I counted. Not really.

This flock we got 21,700 turkeys, which means we got 217 crates. These crates are unloaded from the Cargill truck, then loaded onto a flatbed trailer and then a truck drives the trailer down the center of the barn so that the crates can be unloaded from the trailer and set out by the pens. This flock, there were about 700 birds to a pen.

It takes several people to get this all done, and the more help you have, the faster the process goes. We should have had more kids. We only have two and, yes, they were helping us. It's hard to get help at 2 a.m., or on Christmas Eve, or when it's really hot, or really cold. Actually its hard to get help on a turkey farm most of the time. It's hot, dirty, stinky work, that's for sure.

This is the birds after they have been put into their pen. They are walking around looking for food and water, which is their main goal in life.

Isn't this baby turkey chick cute? She (yes, these are all girls) is really soft and yellow, just like a baby chicken. But, oh, I promise you, this cute little chick gets U-G-L-Y really quickly. And I mean UGLY!!!!!

My goal is to show you the progress of the turkeys once a week from the day they arrive, to the day they are shipped. Just in case you think you want to grow up to be a turkey farmer, I want you to know what you're getting into!

1 comment:

  1. Lotsa work, to say the least! Wow, you really are a diversified farm to say the least! There used to be a big turkey farm near us (years ago), and to this day it's still called Turkey Farm Road.... even though there's a golf course on that road now :) -Tammy