Mimeo Series No. PY 70-5
HUME LIBRAfR I
JUL 1 8 1972
.F.A.S. Univ. cf Florida
*KEY PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA
R. A. Voitle and C. R. Douglas
Poultry Science Department
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida
. > >'">
Julian Stephen Moore
This publication is dedicated to the memory of Julian Stephen Moore
who served as Extension Poultryman at the University of Florida for almost
20 years before his death, November 29, 1969. Mr. Moore was a pioneer in
the development of the state's turkey industry and worked closely with the
major turkey producers.
Before coming to the University of Florida in 1950, he had been with
the Poultry Department of the University of Georgia, the Georgia Agricultural
Extension Service and had managed the poultry unit of a commercial farm
at Hamilton, Georgia, which specialized in turkey production.
A native of Goldston, North Carolina, he received degrees at North
Carolina State University and the University of Georgia.
During his service at Florida, Mr. Moore worked with the Florida
National Egg Laying Test and all other phases of the state's poultry
industry. He was the author of a number of publications in the poultry
industry and was coordinator of the Annual Florida Poultry Institute.
The basis of this publication was an earlier publication by Mr. Moore,
and was initiated at his suggestion.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Dedication . . . . . . . . . .. .... . ii
Table of Contents . . . . . . . . . .
Standard Breeds and Varieties of Turkeys . .
Starting a Turkey Enterprise . . . .
Contracts. . . . . . . . . .
When to Start the Turkey Project . . . .
The Brooder House. . . . .. . .
Preparing the Brooder House . . . . .
Equipment Needed . . . . . . . .
Selecting the Brooder. . . . . . .
General Instructions . . . . . . .
Week by Week Brooding Operations for Turkeys
Confinement Ring. . . . . . . .
Range Rearing . . . . . . . .
Management of Turkeys on the Range . . .
Feeding Turkeys on Range. . . . . ..
Feed Cost. . . . . . . . ..
Feeding Turkeys. . . . . . . . .
Disease Control and Prevention . . . .
S. . . . 2
. . . . . . 21
Poultry Science Department of Poultry Science
Mimeograph Series No. PY 70-5 University of Florida
200 Copies Gainesville, Florida 32601
TURKEY PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA
R. A. Voitle* and C. R. Douglas*
The number of turkeys produced annually in Florida reached a peak of
460,000 in 1959. Since that time production has averaged 250,000 per year.
This does not include the sale of poults or hatching eggs which, it is
estimated, double the above figure. Annual production in Florida represents
less than 20% of the turkeys consumed in the state. The figures indicate
that there is an unusual opportunity for individuals with the desire, the
know how, and sufficient financing to grow turkeys successfully in Florida.
The major advantages favoring turkey production in Florida are:
1) housing and brooding costs are less due to the mild climate; 2) the well
drained sandy soils, typical of Florida, are an invaluable aid in the
prevention and control of diseases; 3) the mild winters are excellent for
maintaining breeding stock; 4) data from egg and broiler production in the
State of Florida indicate that producers can expect better feed conversion;
5) there is an excellent nearby market; and 6) the tourist and heavy
marketing seasons coincide.
There are some problems associated with entering turkey production in
the state and perhaps the most pressing problem is the lack of adequate
commercial processing facilities. The larger producers have overcome this
problem by putting in their own processing plants. There is also a general
lack of experience in growing turkeys on a commercial scale. In addition
there may be more problems associated with raising capital for a turkey
enterprise than for Florida's more established animal industries. Finally
*Dr. Voitle is Assistant Poultry Physiologist for the Florida Agricultural
Experiment Stations and Dr. Douglas is Assistant Extension Poultryman for
The Florida Cooperative Extension Service.
Florida is a grain deficit area and seasonal purchases of feed grain must
be made to remain as competitive as possible.
Standard Breeds and Varieties of Turkeys
Seven standard domesticated varieties of turkeys are recognized by
the American Poultry Association. These are: Bronze, Beltsville Small
White, Narragansett, White Holland, Black, Slate and Bourbon Red. In
addition, a number of other varieties and commercial strains have gained in
popularity in recent years. Commercially the Broad Breasted strains and
the Beltsville Small White are the two most important. The typical weights
of the more important varieties are as follows:
Admitted to Variety1 Hen Tom
Standard YG YE A YG YE A
1874 Bronze 16 18 20 25 33 36
1874 Narragansett 14 16 18 23 30 33
1874 Black 14 16 18 23 30 33
1874 White Holland 14 17 18 25 30 33
1874 Slate 14 16 18 23 30 33
1909 Bourbon Red 14 16 18 23 30 33
No Broad Breasted Bronze 18 20 22 32 38 41
No Broad Breasted White 18 20 22 32 38 41
1951 Beltsville Small White 11 12 13 19 22 23
YG Young, YE =-Yearling,.A = Adult
Several non-standard varieties and commercial strains exist.
The added weight of the Broad Breasted strains is due to more fleshing
on the breast and thigh. The relatively shorter shanks and broader breast
give the Broad Breasted variety the appearance of a more blocky conformation
than the upstanding Bronze. The Broad Breasted Bronze has the same general
color pattern as the standard bred Bronze. At present the term "Broad Breasted"
is limited to a variety with members having a breast at least 32 inches wide
at a point 1 3/4 inches above the keel when selected for breeders.
The Beltsville Small White turkey was developed at the U.S.D.A.
Agricultural Research Center at Beltsville, Maryland to fill the needs
of the average family for a small size turkey.
All of the varieties and strains have been subjected to continuous
genetic selection by commercial breeders, in an effort to improve their
Starting a Turkey Enterprise
Success in the turkey enterprise depends upon careful planning,
adequate facilities and a sound program of management.
The first and most important step in planning that must be taken is
to establish a market for your birds. Secondly, and of almost equal import-
ance, is to ensure that there are adequate processing facilities. Thirdly,
evaluate your production facilities, augment and update them as necessary,
keeping in mind that sophisticated equipment is not always the answer to
Only now should attention be turned to the strain of turkey to be
selected. The turkey that is selected will depend on which strains)
possess the type, size and color best suited for the market that will be
supplied. In addition, the availability of the strain and the closeness
of the hatchery should be considered.
Now that a strain has been selected there are several ways you can
start the production end of your turkey enterprise: 1) purchase breeding
stock; 2) purchase hatching eggs; 3) use the mature birds you have on the
farm as the basis for your breeding flock; 4) purchase day-old turkey poults.
The latter method is probably the most likely to lead to success and may
be the most economical.
If breeding stock is purchased, obtain only the very best. These
breeders should come from a producer who has a pullorum and fowl typhoid
clean, well bred, healthy flock of proven production. In the case of
hatching eggs, there is the danger of a poor hatch, poor quality poults,
or both, particularly if one has not hatched turkey eggs before. If it
is planned to use birds presently on the farm as foundation stock, select
them carefully and have them tested for pullorum and fowl typhoid. Keep
only the best ones.
If it is decided to purchase day-old poults, they should be ordered
several weeks in advance of delivery date. It is very important to get
the very best turkey poults available. These should be purchased from
a reliable breeder hatcheryman who has a well established pullorum and
fowl typhoid clean flock. The breeders in this flock should have been
carefully selected for fast growth, conformation, uniformity, early maturity
and lack of pin feathers at market age, and should possess a minimum of
undesirable characteristics. The poults should be hatched in a hatchery
under the best of sanitary conditions. Success or failure with turkeys
can depend upon the quality of poults that are started. Secure poults
as nearby as possible so they can be delivered and started on feed and
water quickly in order to reduce the number of "starveouts".
Turkeys may be produced independently or under contract. Contracts,
when they are available, fall under two major headings. One is the risk-
sharing type of contract where the grower and contractor divide the profits
in proportion to the contributions of both. The second type guarantees
the producer a definite price per pound or per poult raised with bonuses
for outstanding performance, as measured by feed efficiency, growth rate,
Contracts should always be written; this is merely good business.
Read the contract carefully before you sign it and be sure you understand
every point. The advice of an attorney with experience in poultry contracts
is invaluable. Every detail of the agreement should be spelled out completely,
even those points that seem obvious to you.
In general, returns are greater to the independent producer with private
financing; however, if financing is a problem or you wish to share your
risk, contract production may be the solution.
When to Start the Turkey Project
The large Bronze and White Broad Breasted turkeys mature between 17
and 24 weeks of age. The hen of these varieties will mature in 17 to 20
weeks and.the tomn in 21 to 24 weeks. Beltsville Small Whites should be
marketed between 12 and 16 weeks of age. Sexed poults can be purchased
to take advantage of these differences. In addition. slightly better weight
gains can be obtained by separating the sexes, either on range or in con-
finement. More efficient gains can also be obtained by formulating a
feed especially for males and one for females after they are 12 weeks
Since the majority of turkeys are produced for the Thanksgiving and
Christmas market, they should be started at a time that will have them
finished and in good condition for these markets. The months of April
and May are the ideal months to start turkey poults. The weather at this
time is usually good and the birds get off to a good start before extremely
hot weather. In addition, they should be in prime condition for the holiday
market. Poults can be started in June but they get off to a slow start;
the mortality of late poults is usually much higher than earlier poults
and they will not be in prime condition for the holiday market.
In addition to the mature whole and deboned bird market, at least
two other turkey markets exist. One is the turkey fryer that is marketed
around 12 weeks of age. A second turkey parts, i.e., halves and quarters.
These latter two markets are ained at the smaller families (1-2 people)
which prefer smaller portions. It appears that these latter two areas
offer the greatest possibility for expansion for the "bone-in" turkey
market. The market is already there for an aggressive individual with
The Brooder House
Florida's mild climate makes turkey brooding much less of a problem
than in most other areas of the country. Almost any type house that can
be heated, ventilated, kept dry and is rodent and bird proof, can be used
as a brooder house. Battery brooders can be used to start poults; however,
the poults will have to be transferred to a brooder house at 10 to 14 days
Brooder houses can vary in size from one large enough to accommodate
only 100 birds up to houses for several thousand poults. If brooder
houses are to be constructed, they can be built along the same line as
brooder houses for chickens. Some existing houses on the farm might be
converted for use as brooder houses. Old tenant houses, barns, and even
machine sheds may be used. The important thing is a house that can be
heated, is rodent proof, bird proof, that will provide ventilation without
drafts, can be kept dry and is easily cleaned.
Modern brooder houses are approximately 30 feet wide and long enough
to accommodate the number of birds you wish to raise. Allow 1 to 1
square feet of floor space per bird. Only the very experienced producer
should use the 1- square foot figure as more problems arise in the more
densely populated houses. The building should be designed with ease of
clean-.out a prime consideration.
If it is planned to raise turkeys from brooding to market time in
confinement, the building should be of the open pole-type construction.
Plastic curtains or removable panels can be used during the brooding
period to retain the heat and to eliminate drafts. If birds are to be
grown to mature market weight in confinement, 3 to 6 square feet of floor
space should be allowed per turkey, depending on the strain and sex.
The birds may be raised either on conventional litter floors or
raised floors (wire, expanded metal, slats, plastic). Disease may be
easier to control, the house can be kept more sanitary, feed efficiency
will be better and weight gains may be better (especially to 12 weeks
of age) on raised floors; however, odors, drafts, breast blisters and
general management present more of a problem than is found on conventional
Preparing the Brooder House
No matter what type house or method of brooding is used for the
raising of poults, sanitation and cleanliness are absolute necessities.
In preparing the brooder house, large or small, move out all equip-
ment and thoroughly clean, sweep down the walls and ceiling, clean out
all litter, dust and dirt that may be in the house and deposit it well
away from the house. Wash the entire house with hot lye water (one can
to 10 gallons of water) or a commercial cleaner disinfectant made for this
purpose. Rinse the house with clean water, allow to dry and then spray or
paint the house with any good disinfectant (lye water may be used again).
Hard to reach areas, such as the ceiling, must be given special attention
as dust from these areas will soon recontaminate a "clean" house. New
houses should be washed down and disinfected alsq as it is dust (so
prevelant in new houses) that harbor many disease causing agents.
All of these cleanout operations should be completed at least two
weeks ahead of the poults' arrival. This helps break any disease cycle
and allows time for the walls and floor to dry. If raised floors are used,
clean these in the same manner as the rest of the house. If litter is used,
spread it 4 inches deep over the entire floor. Round out all of the corners
of the brooder room, or hang feed bags in the corners to discourage piling.
See that there is adequate ventilation and that it can be controlled.
Provide one brooder per 300 poults 600-700 chick-capacity). Do not
brood more than 300 poults in one unit.
The following minimum feeder space should be allowed for each 100
a) First two weeks 16 linear feet* + two filler flats or feeder
b) During third and fourth weeks 24 linear feet.
c) During fifth and sixth weel 32 linear feet.
d) During seventh and eighth weeks- 40 linear feet.
The feeder lip should be kept adjusted to the height of the turkey's
back at all times.
The following minimum drinking space should'be allowed for each
a) First two weeks 3 linear feet or 2 one gallon founts.
b) During third and fourth weeks- 6 linear feet or 4 one gallon
c) During fifth through eighth weeks- 8 linear feet or 2 five gallon
A corrugated cardboard or metal guard (min. 18" high) should surround
each brooding unit.
Linear foot one foot of feeding or watering space, i.e., a four foot
trough open on both sides has eight linear feet of space.
Selecting the Brooder
Electric, gas, oil or coal brooders can be used where turkey poults
are brooded on the floor. The brooder selected depends upon availability,
cost of fuel and ease of operation. Electric brooders are easy to operate
and control; however, they do not heat the entire house, but heat only
that portion under the hover. Moisture tends to collect where an electric
brooder is used and this results in damp litter in the house, unless the
house is well ventilated. Where electric current is available and reason-
able in price, it would pay to investigate the use of electric brooders in
Florida. Gas brooders are in use all over the country and have proven very
satisfactory in turkey brooding. They will give ample heat when necessary,
yet the temperature can be adjusted easily. There is little fire hazard and
in most cases they are economical to operate. As with electric brooders,
the ventilation of the house must be controlled to prevent the accumulation
of moisture. Oil brooders are easy to regulate and fuel can be easily
secured. However, there is always the fire hazard with oil-type brooders.
The coal-type brooder is impractical under Florida conditions. Select the
brooder that is most suitable for your operation.
Set Up the Brooder House 24 Hours Before the Poults Arrive
The brooder stove should be carefully checked and should have
maintained a constant temperature of 950 for at least a 24 hour period.
Check the thermometers to insure their accuracy.
If litter is used it should be highly absorbent, nonpalatable, mold
free, relatively dust free, low in cost and readily available. Cover the
litter with cloth bags or some similar material. This will prevent the
birds from eating the litter. Do not use smooth paper as spraddlee legs"
are a problem in turkeys and the condition is greatly aggravated by placing
the birds on a smooth surface. Place the brooder guard (confinement ring)
approximately 3 feet from the edge of the hover when the poults are started.
The guard should be solid (cardboard or sheet metal is good) except in
hot weather when a wire guard may be used. The purpose of the guard is to
keep the poults near the source of heat for the first few days, to prevent
drafts in cold weather and to prevent poults from piling in a corner.
Arrange feeders and waterers in a spoke-like fashion within the circle to
allow poults to move in and out from under the hover without going over the
top of feeders. Place the water founts (water jars) on boards to help
keep out litter and never place them near any light under the brooder.
The poults tend to go toward the light and will sometimes upset the jars.
Distribute the filler flats or feeder lids evenly in the open area and
cover the center section of them with feed. This practice will reduce
the number of "starveouts".
It is most important that all of the above procedures be finished
well in advance of the poults' arrival (24 hours is recommended to allow
ample time for last minute details). When the brooder house has been
set up as described above, only then is one ready to place the poults
under the brooder. It is an excellent idea to dip the beak of the poults
into the water and then into the feed as they are taken from the box and
put under the brooder. This may seem a little old fashioned; however,
if poults don't find feed and water shortly after hatching, a large number
will starve, resulting in heavy financial losses. The poults should be
placed under the brooder as soon as possible after hatching. Some growers
use colored feed or brightly colored marbles in feed and waterers to attract
poults. Grass clippings or other similar material sprinkled on the feed
have also proved very effective in reducing "starveouts". Some poults
may have to be force fed; however, considering the investment in only
one poult you will want to use every method known to get them started
You must guard against your turkey poults piling, especially around
sundown. Rounding the corners in the brooding area or hanging feed sacks
in the corners will reduce losses in this area. Often piling may result
when the poults are uncomfortable. If piling is a problem, check the
adjustment of the brooders and the ventilating system. Check brooder
temperature two inches above the floor at the edge of the brooder.
Suggested brooding temperatures are 950 F the first week and reduce the
temperature 50 F per week until 70 F is reached (providing environmental
temperatures will permit). Maintain 700 F until heat is no longer required
(about 5 to 6 weeks in the summer and 8 to 10 weeks in the winter).
Check the poults 2 to 3 times during the night for the first few
days. If they are comfortable they will be evenly distributed in the
brooding area. If they are too hot they will move to the edge of the
brooding area and if they are too cold they will huddle in the center.
In this respect the actions of the poults are the better-indicator of
proper brooder temperature than a thermometer.
Use dim all-night lights during the brooding period with a light
under each hover. This also will reduce crowding and piling.
The first week of life is the most critical period for the poults.
As much as 50% of the total mortality may occur during this period.
Most of this is attributable to poor management. The two major con-
tributors to this mortality are "starveouts" and piling. A little extra
attention to these problem areas will pay handsome rewards.
Daily cleaning of the waterers is a recommended practice. Encourage
the poults to use automatic waterers as soon as possible; however, do not
remove all the founts (water jars) until every bird is regularly using the
automatic waterers. A good practice is to gradually begin removing the
founts on the second day and relocating the remaining founts closer to
the automatic units.
The brooder guards can be removed on about the seventh day and the
floor covering on the fourth or fifth day. In cold weather it is sometimes
wise to enlarge the guards to include two to three stoves from the seventh
to tenth day. If all birds have found feed and water at the time the guard
is removed the filler flats and founts may also be removed; however, the
birds should be observed carefully for evidence of "starveouts" for the
next few days as there may be a second peak of mortality at this time.
Keep feeders full for the first 7 to 10 days. The feed wastage
during this period is a small price to pay for the reduction of "starveouts".
Rid the house of rats, holes, sharp objects, bright spots, wet spots
and open containers. A little care in these areas will, again, pay handsome
Debeaking is recommended only in flocks where cannibalism is a problem;
however, once a problem does develop, the birds should be debeaked at once.
Stop-pick salves and home remedies are a poor substitute for proper debeaking.
Do not debeak at day of age as this will increase your problems with "starveouts".
Wing clipping or notching may be used to help confine birds on the
range but is not considered necessary in confinement rearing. If it is
decided to reduce the -ability to fly, notcthiig a the wing is the
recommended procedure. This method will reduce the number of downgrades
in processed birds.
Desnooding is an unnecessary expense unless you have experienced
problems in this area before. If it is decided to desnood the birds, it
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should be done at hatching.
It is recommended that all birds be vaccinated for fowl pox at 6 to
8 weeks of age and again 6 to 7 months later under normal conditions
(immunity in turkeys is only about 6 months). In the advent of large
mosquito populations, it may be necessary to vaccinate earlier than
6 to 8 weeks; consult your veterinarian. Vaccination programs against
Newcastle and other diseases should be regarded as individual problems
and the advice of a local veterinarian should be consulted as to the
advisability of additional vaccination programs.
A wise producer will examine his birds periodically throughout the
growing period to determine their condition. If their progress is not
satisfactory the marketing date should be adjusted to compensate for either
an over or under fleshed bird.
Week by Week Brooding Operations for Turkeys
First Week.- The temperature can be dropped from 950 F to 90 F by
the end of the week. Remember, it is more important to watch the actions
of the poults than it is to watch the thermometer. If the poults crowd
together under the hover, not enough heat is being supplied. If the poults
move to the outer edge of the brooding area, too much heat is being supplied.
If the birds are evenly distributed over the area, are busy eating and
drinking, they are comfortable and the temperature is correct. You should
make it a practice to visit the brooder house every hour or so the first
few days to see that everything is in order. It is especially important
to visit the brooder house at night during this early period. Use dim:
lights all night.
Change the filler flats as they become soiled. On the third day
turn the sacks covering the floor or put in new sacks. The sacks may be
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washed and used again. On the fourth or fifth day the sacks may be
removed. Begin to remove the filler flats and founts on the second
day. Relocate the remaining ones closer to the permanent units to
encourage their use. Do not remove all of the filler flats or founts
until every poult is using the permanent units.
Second Week The temperature can be dropped from 900 F to 850 F
by the end of the week. Watch the action of the poultsl Remove the
brooder guard and give the poults the run of the house. In cold weather
enlarge the guards to include 2 or 3 brooders from the seventh to tenth
day. When the brooder guard is completely removed it is very important
to watch the poults to see that they do not stray away from the heat,
feed or water or that they do not pile up. Poults are very bad about
piling. They have a much greater tendency to pile and crowd than do
chickens. If the temperature is too hot or cold they will crowd. If
the sun happens to hit a spot in the brooder floor they will go toward
this light. If this spot happens to be in a corner you will sometimes
have a number of poults smother from crowding. Do not leave open con-
tainers (feed buckets, etc.) in the brooder house. The curiosity of the
poults may lead them to jump down into such a container until the ones on
the bottom are smothered. They will also crowd behind a sack of feed
until some are smothered.
In litter houses place the waterers and even the feeders on a board.
This will help to keep the feed and water clean. _Stir the litter in
problem areas and watch out for wet spots and remove any wet litter
which may be a primary source of disease organisms. Wash and thoroughly
clean water founts each day. Keep the feed troughs thoroughly clean and
remove any damp feed, as feed troughs also harbor disease organisms.
Third Week The temperature can be dropped from 850 F to 800 F by
the end of the week. Watch the action of the poults. If mechanical
feeders are available the birds should be eating from them. Do not make
any rapid changes; always make changes gradually. Watch the litter;
remove damp or soiled litter and stir it.
Fourth Week. The temperature can be dropped from 800F to 75F by
the end of the week. Watch the poults. If hand feeding is practiced,
change to larger feeders. Continue to stir the litter and watch for
coccidiosis. Wet spots in the litter are ideal places for coccidiosis
to get started. See that the house is kept well ventilated. It will be
necessary to pay special attention to the poults between sundown and dark
to see that they are spread around the hover at night and are not attempting
to roost on the feed troughs or crowding to one side of the house.
Fifth to Eighth Week. The temperature can be dropped from 750F to
70F by the end of the fifth week. Leave the brooder at 70F for the re-
mainder of the brooding period. During the seventh and eighth week gradually
change from a starting mash or pellets to a growing mash or pellets. By
the eighth week you must have decided whether you are going to continue the
growing of the turkeys in confinement or move them to range.
Turkeys of excellent quality can be raised in confinement. The same
building can be used to brood and to grow out the turkeys. Under good
management, mortality is usually lower than in range reared flocks.
Predators are no problem in a well constructed house. The use of auto-
matic feeders and waterers reduces the amount of labor required. This is
becoming a more important consideration in today's tight labor market. In
confinement rearing the minimum amount of land is required per bird, which
is an important consideration in today's rising land market. The three
main disadvantages of confinement rearing are: not enough information is
available on how to efficiently produce market turkeys in confinement;
building costs are higher; feed costs are higher than if the birds were
reared on improved pastures or grain fields.
If the birds are ranged on bare ground (free from vegetation) the
advantage in feed conversion would be lost, especially if wild birds
are a problem. Wild birds will also be a factor as disease carriers on
the range and in confinement rearing if the houses are not bird proof.
If you decide to grow turkeys in confinement allow 3 to 6 feet per bird
and continue the same feeding practices. Vaccinate for pox at 6 to 8
weeks of age.
The range selected should be clean land on which no chickens or
turkeys have been allowed to range in the past three years. Allow at
least one acre of land for each 100 poults. To save feed and promote
growth the range should be seeded to some crop that will afford feed
and grazing. Crops that can be used to advantage with turkeys are corn,
peas, soybeans, peanuts, millet and milo. The range, in addition to
providing grazing and green feed, should afford shade and sunlight as
well as maximum protection from predators. The range should be well
drained and free from holes where water might stand and become stagnant.
Stagnant water and wet spots on the range are a source of disease organisms.
Equipment for the range need not be expensive. Portable shelters
that will provide protection from rain and sun is all that is needed
in the way of shelter. Some kind of shade on the range is essential.
A range with a patch of woods is the most desirable. In this case,
waterers, feeders, and shelters should be placed out in the open. The
turkeys will go to the woods for shade and will come out for feed and
water. The sunshine will help destroy disease germs and parasites that
might build up around the feeding and watering areas. During extremely
hot weather feed and water should be moved to shade to encourage the
birds to maintain an adequate intake of nutrients. When a large number
of turkeys are to be placed on range, portable feeders that will hold
at least 600 pounds of feed are to be recommended over snall feeders
that would have to be filled every day. The feeders should bec'designed
to give maximum protection from the elements. Provide 60 linear feet
of feeder space per 1000 birds.
Provisions must be made to supply plenty of drinking water. Waterers
should be easily cleaned and leak proof. Provide at least 36 linear feet
of watering space per 1000 birds. Turkeys will drink 2 to 2 pounds of
water for every pound of feed. Placing the waterers on a wire platform
reduces dampness and the possibility of disease outbreaks. If water has
to be hauled to the range, oil drums placed on skids and equipped with
a trough and a float valve may be used.
Protection of the turkeys while on range from predatory animals
and thieves is very important. Dogs and foxes, especially, can cause
heavy losses among turkeys. The use of lights at night is important.
Hang oil burning flares or other lights in the areas the birds sleep.
in. If oil burning flares are used, locate them so the birds will not
be burned. Steel traps on top of poles around the area are effective
in controlling owls. Electric fences can be used to confine turkeys to
the range as well as keeping predators out. They are economical and
easy to move. Two strands of wire spaced 10 to 18 inches from the
ground are sufficient. Use only approved types of electric fence chargers.
If a large number of turkeys are kept on the range, it is desirable that
someone stay near them during the day and provisions should be made for
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someone to sleep near the range at night to guard against predatory animals
and thieves. Keeping a dog leashed near the range is another means of
Management of Turkeys on the Range
The area to be used for range should have been seeded to some crop
that will furnish grazing. All equipment should be checked and necessary
repairs made before the turkeys are moved to the range. Use a few waterers
and feeders from the brooder house so the poults can gradually become
accustomed to the new equipment. The change from the brooder house to
the range is a drastic move under the best conditions. Records over the
years show that one of the high peaks in mortality comes at the time of
moving birds to the range. Everything possible should be done to make
this change as easy as possible. Check the birds often during the first
few days, especially at night.
Check the weeks weather report before moving the poults to the range.
Avoid moving the poults when the weather is threatening. Keep the poults
inside until at least 2 to 3 days of fair weather is assured. Even then,
it is best to move only part of the poults at one time. Move about 1/3
of the poults early in the morning; skip a day or two and move the remainder
of the flock. It will be much easier to teach a smaller group. When this
initial group has become accustomed to the new surroundings, the remaining
poults can be brought to the range. They will follow the more accustomed
birds. Always move the birds early in the morning so they will have the
maximum amount of daylight to become accustomed to the new surroundings'
The rotation of the turkeys while on range is important. Gradually
move them to new or clean areas. Don't let them stay in the same area
until it becomes contaminated. Don't attempt to move turkeys if the
weather is unusually hot. Watering down shaded areas will help prevent
losses from heat prostration.
Feeding Turkeys on Range
Large covered feeders on skids that are easily movable, and will
hold at least 600 pounds of feed at one time, will materially cut down
on the labor involved in feeding turkeys on the range. It is important
not to allow the feed to stay in the feeders so long that it becomes old
and moldy. By alternating the filling of the feeders, allowing one group
of feeders to be empty or almost empty each time before feed is put out,
the problem of old and moldy feed in the bottom of the feeder will be
eliminated. Good fresh feed at all times is important.
Feed cost will make up 60% or more of the total cost of raising turkeys.
The feed required to grow a turkey to market size varies widely, depending
on the variety, time of hatch, feed used, management, type of range, age
marketed, disease and parasite control. High mortality late in the growing
season will result in a very high feed cost for the turkeys that survive.
Various feeding trials show that it requires 70 to 120 pounds of feed
to grow a turkey to market size. Where turkeys are grown on range, and there
is fair amount of green grazing available it will usually require from 90 to
100 pounds of feed per bird for the Broad Breasted Bronze variety, provided
they are marketed as they reach prime condition. If the turkeys have to be
fed several weeks after they are mature, the feed consumption will be much
higher. Below are listed typical growth rate and feed consumption figures
for the Broad Breasted Bronze.
Growth Rate and Feed Consumption of
Broad Breasted Bronze and White Turkeys (Tcms and Hens Combined)*
Age Weight 'Feed'
In Weeks Pounds Pounds
4 1.3 1.9
8 3.8 8.2
12 7.6 23.0
16 12.6 39.0
20 17.3 55.8
24 21.3 75.7
28 24.5 96.0
Turkey World, January, 1970.
Most turkey growers will want to use a complete feed. This may be
a feed purchased from a feed company, or one mixed on the farm.
Commercial turkey feeds are available both in mash and granulated
or pellet form. Granulated or pellet form feeds are preferred over mash
for range feeding.
Turkey poults are usually fed for the first 6 to 8 weeks on a 26 to
28% protein feed. At the end of this period the poults should be changed
to a growing diet containing about 22% protein. Such a diet can be fed
from this time until market time.
If grain, such as oats and corn, are available locally or can be
purchased from nearby states at an economical price, cheaper gains may
be obtained through the feeding of these grains in addition to the complete
feed. Usually the poults will begin to consume some grain at 7 to 8 weeks
of age. After the feeding of grain is started, poults may continue to eat
more mash than grain. As they get older they will gradually consume more
and more grain and less and less mash until by the time they are ready for
market they will be consuming much larger proportions of grain than mash.
As the weather gets cooler in the fall of the year, turkeys will start
eating more corn than oats. All feeds, whether mash, pellets, or grain,
should be kept before the turkey at all times.
In growing turkeys to market age the initial cost of the poults and
the cost of the feed to grow these poults will represent 70 to 80% of the
total cost of raising turkeys. Secure poults of superior quality that
will live well and utilize feed efficiently, feed well balanced diets
and do not waste feed by using poorly designed or damaged feeders. The
smallest number of pounds of feed per pound of turkey raised should be
the goal if a profit is to be made.
Disease Control and Prevention
Modern drugs, at best, are a poor substitute for good management. A
strict sanitation program is essential to good turkey production. Plastic
disposable boots are a good investment and everyone entering the farm
should be required to wear them. Rubber boots that are sanitized daily
can be used by the caretakers. Close observation of the sound management
practices outlined in this text is the best disease control program.
If a disease outbreak occurs you must determine its cause so the
proper medication, if there is one, can be started as soon as possible.
It is an unsound program to medicate without a diagnosis or professional
advice. If a disease problem develops, select birds representative of
the condition and send 8 to 10 to one of the Poultry Diagnostic labs in
the state. The following Poultry Diagnostic Labs are located in the
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State of Florida:
Cottondale, Florida 32413
Dade City, Florida 33525
Kissimmee, Florida 32741
Live Oak, Florida 32060
Animal Health Laboratory
Florida Department of Agriculture
Miami, Florida 33101
Rt. 1, Box 437
Do not send cull birds unless they are typical of the disease problem.
Providing the information requested on the forms at the end of this text
is necessary for a correct diagnosis. This information should accompany
the birds submitted for diagnosis.
Immediately dispose of any dead birds using a disposal pit or preferably
If the turkey enterprise is based on careful planning, adequate
facilities and a sound program of management, chances for success are
(To accompany birds to Diagnostic Lab)
Poultryman' s name
Please advise me of diagnosis by: Letter Collect Call
Source of Stock Pullorum Rating
No. of Birds in Affected Group Age No. Birds on Farm Age(s)
Age of Birds When Purchased
Date Symptoms First Noted No. Showing Symptoms
Mortality: No. Per Day Total to Date
Egg Production: Before Disease Now
Feed Consumption (lb. per day): Before Disease Now
Type of Feed % Protein
Source of Feed
Disease on nearby farm
recent Stress Factors
Other birds brought on farm
Faulty brooding equipment
Change in feed
Drugs used in Treating This Condition___ _
In Water Injectable Level
What Preventive Drugs Used? At Wh
For How Long .
Drugs Previously Used Da