Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Anson County Farmers Raising Turkeys, 1945

By F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, N.C. State College, Raleigh, as published in the Wilmington Star, May 21, 1945

Thirty-five thousand farm poults ranging in age from 2 to 9 weeks are developing in the various brood shelters of Anson County to provide a succulent dish for many a North Carolina home come Thanksgiving and Christmas. The poults are scattered mostly among 30 growers in the White Store section, where turkey growing was started and encouraged years ago by Farm Agent Jimmy Cameron and Home Agent Mrs. Rosalind Redfearn.

Some of the poults are in ramshackle buildings covered with tar paper or in cheaply constructed houses made largely of slabs from nearby sawmills. But these are not the rule. At the other end of the scale is the elaborate brick broiler house owned by J. Leonard Tice of Marshville, Route 1, or the cinder block house owned by his kinsman, H.D. Tice.

It is a treat to visit these turkey growers in company with Jimmy Cameron and see what great hopes and fears are encompassed within the bodies of the delicate and foolish little birds.

Jimmy, let it be known here, is a successful turkey grower in his own right. He grows out about 1,000 of the birds each season on his own dairy farm near Polkton on Brown Creek. About all he has to do with them is to know that they are there when he leaves at early dawn or returns after dark. The real work is done by is energetic son, who not only plays godfather to the 1,000 turkeys but also to some 5,000 broilers and baby chicks and a herd of 40 fine Jersey heifers. Labor being what it is, young “Judge” Cameron never manages to find an idle minute except in the middle hours of the night and at odd times Sundays. Lately when there was some questions as to whether he would be more useful on this farm or in his army—the army folks told him quite candidly that he would have a much easier time in the ranks.

But County Agent Cameron does know this dairy and poultry game from the practical standpoint, and when he goes out to visit among the turkey growers, he talks as one of them.

Near Peachland, J.T. Caudle has 2,800 of the little broadbreasted bronze poults now 9 weeks of age and just ready for the range. Mr. Caudle says he would have moved them to the open ground some days ago except that it had been rainy and cold through that section for about four or five weeks. His five well-constructed brooder houses are equipped with the ever-present, wire-floored sun porch and there are about 450 birds to each house.

“My turkeys are engaged now,” he said, “but don’t think it is all velvet when the time comes to sell them. These little one here are costing me right at $40 a day for feed alone.”

Mr. Caudle has 166 acres in his farm and is growing 55 acres in grain to provide feed for the voracious appetites for his birds. Last year, he and his father and brother sold about $25,000 worth of turkeys.

Then there is young L. Huntley Jr., also of near Peachland, who has between 1,900 and 2,000 birds. Last year he sold 1,006 finished turkeys and bought the 103 acres of land on which he and Mrs. Hundley have set up their lovely little farmstead. Mr. Huntley has a killing and dressing plant ready for the next marketing season.

His sister Mattie Lou Huntley, lives on the home farm some miles away and there she and her older sister, Pauline, are raising about 1,000 birds. Miss Huntley said they sold $4,700 worth last year and saved some of the best for a breeding flock. Right now she sells eggs from which she clears about $50 a week. All of the poults on the Huntley farm were hatched from eggs produced on the farm.

The first brooding work done in this section was by Mrs. W.D. Gulledge who had a flock of 75 breeding birds about 15 years ago. She was convinced at the time that the turkey “business” would soon by overdone because so many wanted to keep a turkey hen or two.

Since that time, H.P. Tice has been keeping a breeding flock of 500 birds and last winter he built a nice cinder block laying house for the pens. This house, 100 feet long and 30 feet wide, is lighted, has roosting and nesting places. Mr. Tice planted a grazing crop in front of the house and kept his lights on all night long. He says that last January alone, he sold enough eggs to pay the total cost of the house.

It should be kept in mind that the eggs sell for about 50 cents down to 30 cents, each depending on the breed and the season. Right now, with the demand for poults at about a standstill, the eggs sell for 20 cents, wholesale.

Mr. Cameron says that some of the more progressive Negro farmers in Anson County have caught the fever and are growing turkeys. Martin Chambers has grown out 1,000 birds in a very economical way and has now turned them on range. He has been offered $2,000 for his birds as they stand but he says that he will get twice that this fall.

The whole turkey raising business in Anson County is built on quality. The growers have been buying new breeding toms from the State College poultry department each season and they have learned about good feeding, sanitation and a full finish. The poults are kept warm and comfortable until they are ready for the range and then they are moved out where there is fresh ground and plenty of grazing. They need constant attention even when on range. The growers plant Biloxi soybeans for the summer grazing and say the birds move down through a field of the beans like a horde of destroyers consuming the beans as they go. When they have finished a field, the beans first grazed are ready for them again and over they go for the second time. Along with the turkeys has come less cotton, more feed crops, and a more fertile land. The whole idea has resulted in more food for hungry consumers.

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