Written by F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, N.C. State College, Raleigh, as published in the Wilmington Morning Star, Nov. 12, 1945
It’s only a few days until Thanksgiving and then Christmas is just around the corner. The feature dish on these two great North Carolina holidays is turkey and this leads Roy Dearstyne, head of the State College poultry department, to think for a moment about the way in which the state’s turkey industry is headed.
What are the problems right now? What steps must be taken to improve the production of the birds? How can volume production of turkeys be started in the state and then how maintained or even increased? Is it possible that we shall have to abandon our newly started turkey industry altogether? These are all important questions which growers must consider.
Roy says a number of North Carolinians are now getting either a part or all of their income from turkey production and that many other farm families have a flock of turkeys which they grow each year as a part of their food production plan. The business of turkey production is definitely on the increase in the state. According to a survey made in October, North Carolina is the 25th state in the union in the possible production of turkeys for this year.
Far more impressive than this is the fact that only four states in the Union exceeded North Carolina in its increase of production in 1945 as compared with last year, 1944. As a matter of fact, our increase was 130 per cent, which made North Carolina the second state in that group known as the South Atlantic states. This shows that turkey production here definitely has started upward and that the birds will or should, in the future, furnish a dependable part of our farm income.
But Dearstyne makes this pertinent observation. He says that successful turkey production involves high quality, adequate facilities for brooding the birds, poults which are free of disease when started, and a balanced diet that will promote best growth. Then, the family that attempts to grow turkeys commercially must give minute attention to all details of management if the young birds are to live and thrive.
“in this section, securing poults at the ideal time for starting them is one of the most important factors in success with turkeys,” Dearstyne says. Research findings and the experience of many of our best producers indicate that poults should not be started later than April 15 if the highest livability is to be secured. Turkeys should be brooded off the ground for the first 10 weeks and then placed on clean range where a suitable grazing crop is available.
Green feed, in ample quantity is one practice by which feed costs can be reduced and greater profits returned. From the time of hatch, turkeys may be subject to many diseases and parasite infections. Turkey growers must inform themselves as to the nature of these infections, as to what age in the bird’s life they may appear, and what measures should be taken to prevent such infections. As with chickens, the best way to reduce deaths is to prevent disease entering the flocks.”
Over the whole United States, the turkey industry has expanded from the nearly 31 million birds representing the 1937-41 average to over 44 million, indicating production in 1945. This indicated production for 1945 is 121.5 per cent of the production of 1944. Expansion cannot be carried on without limit and the thoughts of our turkey growers should now turn toward the idea of greater efficiency rather than great increase in numbers. Dearstyne believes that one of the greatest, immediate opportunities in turkey work in North Carolina lies in increasing the production of quality hatching eggs.
Probably 50 per cent of the turkey poults raised for commercial purposes are hatched outside of this state. The developing of such a supply of hatching eggs means that more breeding flocks ought to be established and that greater breeding practices than are done at the present time must be followed. Attention must be given not alone to body type of the turkey, but also to those other factors which will give higher production per bird, and this production should be so timed that turkey poults may be hatched early in the spring.
An added and very vital factor is that of reducing mortality or deaths in the flocks. Birds dying from the time of hatch until they reach the market represent the original cost of poult, labor and feed, and even a low per cent of mortality represents a large actual cost of money. To bring about a reduction in mortality means that our established turkey producers are going to have to do more thoughtful work than they have in the past and that those people now beginning to grow turkeys will have to grow into it, rather than go into it.
Incidentally, Randolph Foye of Trenton, Jones County, is having excellent success in his first year of growing turkeys for market. Mr. Foye now has 1,600 fine Broadbreasted Bronze birds that are about ready for the Christmas market. He plans to sell all of his gobblers or toms, and to select out the best hens for egg production this winter. He is making plans now to build a laying house for the hens and will use artificial lights on them beginning December 1. His idea is to produce eggs when they are selling for the best prices and when they are needed for producing poults for the 1946 crop.