In this post we tell you everything you need to know about turkey farming in South Africa. If you are running a mixed farming operation, then turkey production could be a great way to diversify your farming operation. A lot of poultry farmers are now transitioning into rearing free-range turkeys either as part of a mixed farming unit or as a standalone operation geared at large scale production.
When it comes to turkey production in South Africa, there are lots of opportunities for newcomers to insert themselves into the production chain in order to meet the regular and seasonal demand for turkey meat, especially in restaurants.
Turkey Farming In South Africa
However, success in turkey production in South Africa is still highly dependent on carrying out effective marketing as well as mastering successful turkey rearing and management techniques. If you are planning to rear turkeys especially for the Thanksgiving or Christmas, make sure you have established a solid market for the birds. Turkey meat may not fly off the shelves like chicken meat so you need to have developed a good niche market where you will sell your turkey.
Success in turkey rearing also requires good stock management techniques as well as a commitment to tender loving care throughout the lifecycle of the birds. However, practicing the best rearing techniques and having healthy birds will be of no use if you have nowhere to sell your turkey. If you are a newcomer, you should aim at selling your turkey in December when the demand shoots up while also opening a few marketing funnels for the occasional buyer in between the year. You must also ensure that you can provide a very high stock management standard so that you can deliver top quality turkey meat to the market.
The first stage in rearing your turkey is chick brooding which is always a delicate process with all types of poultry. With turkey, it is a particularly uphill task because turkeys are very difficult to brood.
First timers are likely to make too many avoidable mistakes. For examples, they might acquire too many chicks for the brooding size leading to overcrowding and a higher rate of mortality and morbidity.
The brooder you use in brooding your turkeys should be one of the correct sizes and should handle the number of chicks that you are planning to brood. Otherwise, you might find yourself suffering a lot of losses because you chose the wrong siza of the brooder. The chicks will likely suffocate as they huddle together close to the heat.
The brooder temperature should be a critical factor during these early stages. If the heater temperature is too hot, they will move away from the heat source and huddle together around corners leading to suffocation and other injuries. Similarly, if the heat is not sufficient, the chicks will huddle around the little heat source and the crowding results in losses.
Ideally, for brooding purposes, you should have a temperature of 37 degrees Celsius under the brooder and between 15 to 10 degrees Celsius outside the brooder. To produce good quality and health turkeys, you have to give them some tender loving care during the early stages and that will require some passion on your part.
There are various complex stages during the rearing of your turkeys that you will definitely grapple with and which could simply lead to huge losses. However, as long as you enforce very high standards in the turkey production process, you can always minimize losses and enjoy a high yield. You should also maintain regular monitoring to ensure the turkey chicks are thriving.
There are optimal stocking densities for free range turkey that you can go with. Ideally, for a commercial enterprise, you should aim at a stocking density of up to 1000 birds per acre. If you can achieve lower stocking densities, the better. The land where you grow your turkey should also be well drained. Having your turkeys paddling through wetlands can be quite unhealthy.
Fencing and Range Management
Install good and if possible, electric fencing around your turkey farm to protect them from the predators. Also, the range areas where the turkey is being reared should be treated once in a while with lime. Ideally, do that at least once in a year in order to kill off pests, parasites, pathogens and also reduce the bad odor coming from the turkey farm. Treating with lime will also prevent a buildup of parasites in the range area where your turkey are grazing.
For more protection from predators, make sure the turkey is back in the shelter at night. Depending on the local weather, you can take them back to their sheds either early or late in the evening.
You can entice the turkey to get back into their sheds by switching on lights in the shelter, especially during winters. The lights will attract them to move inside. To prevent the turkey from panicking, you can also leave a low-level light on throughout the night.
Make sure the flooring of the shed is strawed with fresh material on a regular basis to prevent a build-up pests, diseases, and foul smell.