Commercial Turkey Farm
Entrepreneurs looking to invest in livestock can learn how to start a commercial turkey farm. Turkey fowl is a poultry bird raised for food with good commercial value, delicious. They are either reared for their delicate meat or egg production.
The business is highly lucrative because the production is greatly deficient to the huge Nigerian population. This is the reason why importers smuggle millions of tons of frozen turkey from neighboring countries.
The illegality of the trade is due to the huge profit and customer demand. To encourage local production the federal government has placed a ban on importation of poultry products such as chicken and turkey.
Local farmers are given grants, subventions to boost production. The amount of startup capital depends on the size and scope of the enterprise. You can start a small turkey farm from home with $1000
About the Turkey
The large bird is native to the America and has a distinct protuberance or snood. The birds are ill tempered and easily provoked to anger. Classified into various family and subfamily, there are two extant species the Meleagris gallopavo and Meleagris Ocellata.
The Ocellated turkey is a forest dweller while the gallopavo are domesticated and wild species. The aggressive birds attack each other and people. First domesticated by indigenous Mexicans 800C they were bred for their delicious meat, fine plumage and eggs.
Why Start a Turkey Farm
The reasons to invest in a commercial turkey farm is quick maturity and attractive prices. It requires low startup and has a huge customer base. The farmer can sell the birds for meat or the eggs.
Reasons to Start a Turkey Farm
- Turkey meat attracts premium price
- You can sell turkey eggs
- 5 months to maturity
- Low startup capital
- Government incentives
- Huge customer base
There are many breeds suitable for farming. Popular breeds are the Royal Palm, Bourbon Reds, and White Holland. More include the Narragansett, Wild Bronze Turkey, Broad Breasted Bronze and Standard Bronze.
- Royal Palm
- Bourbon Reds
- White Holland
- Wild Bronze Turkey
- Broad Breasted Bronze
- Standard Bronze
The business model involves acquiring the chicks and rearing the to table size. This involves comprehensive care and feeding till adulthood.
You need adequate capital for food, medication and space. You could rear them in a free range open system or caged.
Starting a commercial operation require huge funds. However a home based farm could requires moderate to low investment. The cost considerations are purchase of the birds, land, labor and feed.
To source funds try saving or borrowing from friends or family. Apply for loan from a commercial bank or find an investor. You could try partnership arrangement or crowd funding.
Sourcing the Turkey
The best place to buy the young birds is from reputable farms in your locality. To find them use yellow pages or conduct a simple search online. You can visit farms in your area to seek advice. Make sure the birds you buy are devoid of illness to avoid losses.
How to Farm Turkey
Once they have grown past the brooding stage they become highly resistant to disease. Some species exhibit low mortality rate and are rugged.
You can then apply the free range system or cage system. The free range is more economical but you don’t get the desired result.
The cage system is more effective because you can control the feeding, medication and heat requirements. The best age to purchase is those that are 5 weeks old.
Things to consider are type of breed, temperature of cage and adequate feeding. Make sure the turkeys you buy are ideal for your business model. Buy prolific layers if you are going into egg production.
De-beak and Clipping Toenails
The birds are very aggressive and would attack and kill each other. They even attack humans and other poultry birds.
To avoid catastrophic loss you need to de-beak and clip long toe nails. The males are especially aggressive so separate them from each other and the female ‘hens’.
The birds despite their bravado are easily frightened and tend to stamped each other. This could also lead to multiple deaths. Make sure the cage is properly ventilated and don’t forget to de-worm.
Turkeys are large animals so they need adequate space to grow. Other considerations are height, weight and population. The appropriate dwelling for chicks is the deep litter system.
The concrete floor of the pen is prepared by covering it with saw dust or wood shaving. Make sure you provide adequate heat and secure the house from rodents.
There are many manufacturers of turkey feed. Major feeds are corn, sorghum, soybeans, millet and rice.
It is essential you provide feeders to collect the food and water. You can give them supplementary feed such as watermelon, fish meal. Hybrid feeds include turkey starter mash, turkey grower mash and turkey finisher.
- fish meal
- turkey starter mash
- Turkey grower mash
- Turkey finisher
There are some equipment’s you need to successfully rear turkey. You need a cage, feeders and water trough. Seek the assistance of a qualified veterinarian and supplementary feed suppliers.
- water trough
How to Start a Turkey Farm
Basic Turkey Farming Information
To successfully farm turkey you need to know a few basic information. The average day old young bird is 50gms, large 20 week bird 5kg female-8kg male. Full age at sexual maturity 30 weeks, egg production period 25 weeks.
Average egg number 50 to 80 eggs, incubation period 28-30 days and egg weight 65gms. Best marketable age for female 5.5kg, male 7.5kg, feed consumption ratio male 25kg, female 18kg.
Traditional brooding period for young birds are 4 to 6 weeks depending on geographical location, season.
- average day old young bird is 50gms
- large 20 week bird 5kg
- Female 8kg male
- Full sexual maturity 30 weeks
- egg production period 25 weeks
- Average egg number 50 to 80 eggs
- incubation period 28-30 days
- egg weight 65gms
- marketable age for female 5.5kg, male 7.5kg
- feed consumption ratio male 25kg, female 18kg
- traditionally brooding period 4 to 6 weeks
Insemination is either through the natural process of mating or artificial insemination. Artificial insemination guarantees high fertility rate throughout the year. Natural mating is based on season, fertility, behavioral characteristics and breed.
Natural mating selection is one male to four females in most breeds. An adult breeding male is replaced by another after 12 months. A fertile female is capable of producing 45 chicks.
Artificial Insemination (16 weeks breeding season)
A mature male turkey (tom) of 35 weeks is first isolated for 2 weeks. Handle Tom regularly collected semen quickly. Average semen volume is about 25ml and should be used with an hour of collection or it will depreciate.
Collect the semen at two days interval for three days. The next step is to carefully select a mature female with an egg capacity of 10% egg production. Use undiluted semen volume 0.028ml to inseminate them with possibility of 80% fertility.
Turkey Egg Incubation
There are two ways to incubate turkey eggs. They are the natural process with a broody hen whereby the turkey seats on the eggs till they hatch or the artificial method. Artificial incubation is best for large scale commercial hatchery production. It is more efficient, highly regulated and capable of huge production of the chicks.
Natural incubation is when a hen seats on fertilized eggs till they hatch.
Artificial Turkey Egg Incubation
Turkey hens have a low 45% rate of successful brooding while artificial incubation a high 85%. Chick, egg production remains high for commercial farmers using incubators. Egg hatching depends on many factors such as type of equipment, ventilation, humidity, temperature.
It is important to regulate the temperature in the hatchery at an even 99% Fahrenheit. Use a ventilation control to adjust ventilation, humidity and airflow. Humidity levels should be kept an even 58% while egg turning is done every day.
Place the eggs with the larger end slightly elevated apply a marker on the top and bottom side (simple X and O). The marker will be a visual guide while turning the eggs, turn eggs six times every day.
Candling is important to monitor the development of the embryo. The farmer holds an egg up to a light source in a darkroom to see through the shell. Turning the eggs continues then stop at last four days of incubation.
Depending on the breed most turkey eggs hatch in 28 to 30 days. During the final days of incubation the chicks require more ventilation, humidity. They will break out of the shells naturally.
- Add visual markers on egg
- Place eggs large end slightly elevated
- Adjust temperature 98% to 99%99% Fahrenheit
- Humidity levels 55% to 60%
- Use a ventilation control
- Turn eggs 5 to 7 times daily
- Monitor eggs (Candling)
- Eggs hatch 28 to 30 days
Feed Consumption and Body Weight
Average body weight for 4 weeks female 0.64kg, male 0.73kg with total consumption of 0.80kg female, 0.94kg male. Average weight 8 weeks female 2kg, male 2.4kg, total feed consumption. 3.5kg female, 4 kg male.
Average weight 12 weeks female 4kg, male 4.8kg, total feed consumption 9kg female, 11kg male. 16 weeks female average weight 5.5kg, male 7kg, total feed consumption 16kg female, 20kgmale. 20 weeks average weight female 6.8kg, male 9kg, feed 23kg femal, 28 kg male.
|Average body weight Female||Average body weight Male||Total Average consumption|
|4 weeks female 0.64kg||4 weeks male 0.73kg||0.8kg Female, 0.9kg Male|
|8 weeks female 2kg||8 weeks male 2.4kg||3.5kg Female, 4g Male|
|16 weeks female||16 weeks male 7kg||16 kg Female, 20kg Male|
|20 weeks female||20 weeks male 9kg||23kg Female, 28kg Male|
Turkey Diseases and Symptoms
Common turkey diseases are fowl cholera, fowl pox, chronic respiratory disease. Others include Mycotoxicosis, paratyphoid, Coccidiosis, new castle disease. More are turkey coryza, Infectious sinusitis, hemorrhagic enteritis.
- fowl cholera
- fowl pox
- chronic respiratory disease
- new castle disease
- turkey coryza
- Infectious sinusitis
- hemorrhagic enteritis
Symptoms of Sick Bird
Symptoms of a sick bird includes purplish head, enlarged hocks, lameness, beast blisters, scab formation. There may be some swelling, greenish yellow droppings, sneezing, weight loss, soft shelled eggs, lameness, depression, and wheezing, bloody diarrhea.
Preventive measures are vaccination, fumigation, killing of infected stock, sanitation, proper disposal of dead birds, feed spillage.
- purplish head
- enlarged hocks
- beast blisters
- scab formation
- greenish yellow droppings
- weight loss
- soft shelled eggs
- bloody diarrhea
Farmers deploy two types of raring systems. The free range system or intensive rearing system. The intensive rearing system is perfect for commercial turkey farmers.
Free range is ideal for small farms with large pasture land. Free ranging is low investment and involves scavenging. Main advantage of free range are low investment, reduced cost for feed.
Intensive production involves providing housing. The amount of floor space depends on the age of the birds. Provide 1.5 sq.ft for 4 weeks, 2.5 sq.ft for 6-16 weeks,17 -30 weeks 4 sq.ft. and breeders 5 sq.ft.
Use linear feeder space 2.5 cms 4 weeks, 5cms 5-16 weeks, 6.5cms 16-30 sq.ft, breeders 8sq.ft. Linear waterer space, 1.5cms for 4weeks, 2.5cms 5-16 weeks, 16-30 including breeders 2.5cms.
- 5 sq.ft for 4 weeks
- 5 sq.ft for 6-16 weeks
- 17 -30 weeks 4 sq.ft.
- Breeders 5 sq.ft.
Linear feeder space
- 5 cms 4 weeks
- 5cms 5-16 weeks
- 5cms 16-30 sq.ft
- breeders 8sq.ft
Linear waterer space
- 5cms for 4weeks
- 5cms 5-16 weeks
- 16-30 including breeders 2.5cms
Although turkeys look rugged they are not, they require proper management to grow First 4 weeks are crucial for the young birds with mortality ratio at 10%. Make sure they have adequate heat, vaccination or force feed them with feed rich in protein, greens.
Appropriate care includes clean environment, proper feeding, adequate space, vaccination. General turkey management involves temperature, relative humidity, floor space. Setter requires temperature of 99.5F, relative humidity 62%.
Hatcher needs 99.5 F temperature, 87% humidity. Prepare the brooder house before arrival of chicks, allocate 2 square feet for 4 week old birds.
The space should have a small 1.5 feet fence then spread the litter material evenly. Provide accessible water troughs with initial temperature of 94F the reduce temperature weekly.
Housing and Fencing for Turkey
It is important to investing in moderate housing for your birds. Young birds should be kept in secure housing with appropriate temperature and humidity. Older birds love to wonder around the pasture, eat greens, insects.
Appropriate housing should have a roof, protect from predators. Even when they are allowed to roam the most important rule is safety. Protect them from predators with appropriate fencing, give them enough space, water, dust-bathe.
Recommended space for 120 turkeys is 750 feet. A small roast pen shelter of 6 x 8 will conveniently accommodate 20 birds. Ideal building material is plywood with perch 2.5 feet above ground.
Make the roof with regular lightweight material, fiberglass, aluminum. The fencing should be at least 4.5 feet high to prevent them from flying away. Make sure the fencing is sturdy, flush with ground and firm.
This is very important if you want to keep out predators like dogs, fox, or wild cats. Provide adequate nesting material for breeding hens. Try to separate the toms from the hens when they start breeding.
Nutritional requirements for turkey
The nutritional requirements for turkey differs based on age of the bird. The pelted feed aids metabolism, improves growth, energy. Common ingredients in pelted feed are protein 12% -28%, glycine 0.2 -0.5, leucine, methionine, and serine.
Others are arginine, fat calcium. Zinc, water soluble vitamins. Traditional ingredients include soy, maize, wheat, barley and dried distiller grains.
- protein 12% -28%
- glycine 0.2 -0.5
- water soluble vitamins
- Traditional ingredients
- dried distiller grains
The female hen’s could weigh 5.5 to 6 kg while the male Toms 7.5 kg. It takes about 4-5 months for full growth. It is possible to make 80% profit on investment.
The major challenge is selling your produce and pricing. Sell to market women, retailers, frozen food shops and neighbors. Use flyers, poster and banners including newspaper publications.