Pasture Raised Turkeys and Other Poultry in a Low-Input Orchard

Final Report for YNC09-038

Project Type: Youth
Funds awarded in 2009: $370.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Expand All

Project Information


Background: This is my 2nd year participating in my SARE Youth Grant project, of Pasture Raised Heritage Breed Turkeys. During my project I gained experience and knowledge on raising and marketing my birds.

My three goals for this year were:
1. Continue hatching my own eggs, with a higher hatch percentage, using knowledge I learned from the previous year’s ALBC workshop.
2. Introduce my birds to a small scale orchard of disease resistant dwarf trees, to increase the nutrition of their daily diet, while also providing fertilizer for the trees, and pest control.
3. Market my birds on a larger scale market.

To start my 1st goal I had to decide how I should hatch my eggs, either using an incubator or the hens. This is because last year the few poults that hatched under the hens, wandered off the nest, got chilled and died. I decided both, to test which would have higher hatch percentage. The hens hatched more, however, no matter how they hatched I would take the new hatchlings and put them in a brooder.

To determine what varieties of trees I would purchase, I used several different sources of information Ohio State University Extension has a fact sheet entitled “Growing Apples in the Home Orchard.” That was very helpful information. Fine Gardening website also was used, an article called “No Spray Organic Apples”, that has good information. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture food and rural affairs website has a fact sheet entitled “Disease Resistant Apple Cultivars” that I also printed off. It listed many more varieties then the other two articles and goes more in-depth as to the qualities of the fruit. And, of course, the nursery catalogs gave some information as to disease resistant; you have to take into consideration fruit quality and time of blooming (to make sure there is another variety blooming so that they will all be pollinated.)
Here is what I bought, where it came from, when it fruits, and the cost.

Supplier, Type, Variety, Fruiting Time, Cost
Guerneys, apple, Sundance, mid-late Oct., 42.95
Guerneys, apple, Liberty, early Oct., 34.95
Stark Bro’s, apple, Enterprise, mid Oct., 24.99
Stark Bro’s, apple, Gold Rush, mid-late Oct., 24.99
*Stark Bro’s, cherry, North Star, June, 31.99
*Stark Bro’s, apricot,Goldcot, early July, 16.99
*Stark Bro’s, nectarines,Hardired, Aug., 14.99
*Stark Bro’s, nectarines,StarkSunGlo, Aug., 14.99
Stark Bro’s, pear, Starking Delicious, Sept., 24.99
Stark Bro’s, pear, Seckel mid-Sep., 24.99
Stark Bro’s, pear, Moonglo mid Aug., 24.99
Big Lots, pear, Bartlet,late Aug., 14.99
+ Shipping and Handling

I had budgeted $300 for the trees, so I got really close. I had to pay some out of pocket for Shipping and Handling as you can see from the chart. We should have fruit from June, starting with the cherries, all through the summer until late October. My mom cans food, so we should have a year round supply of healthy, home grown fruit if we can keep my milk goats out of the orchard. When I got my trees planted, two of my dairy goats broke in, and killed two trees, the others look OK.

My third goal for this year was to market my birds on a larger scale market. I was also involved in an equestrian drill team this past year. We performed at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Lexington, Kentucky the first week of October. We spent several days a week until the WEG getting ready for our performances. Then, my Grandmother passed away and our family had to deal with our loss. October is also when 4-H members in our county have to turn in the year-end 4-H paperwork. So, I was busy filling out my project reports and the recognition form. With all of these things going on in October, I hadn’t taken time to try to market my turkeys for the Thanksgiving market.

I was very fortunate when I went to Columbia for the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference. I took several of my birds with me and set up a display to draw attention and to have birds there to use in my presentation. While at the Conference, I met two ladies who market pasture-raised birds around the St. Louis area. I was able to sell fifteen turkeys to them, which they re-sold to their customers. I sold them processed, state-inspected birds for $5.50 per pound delivered to them. It cost $5.00 per bird to have them processed. The two buyers were located close enough together that it was easy to deliver to them both. We hauled the fresh, processed birds, on ice, in coolers, in the back of our car. The weights of my birds ranged from 5.47 pounds to 13.69 pounds. I had to purchase some birds to fill the orders and they were smaller than mine. However, some people want smaller birds, especially when paying $10 per pound.

I also learned that in the processing limbs may be torn from the birds in the plucker. I had one bird missing a leg and I hadn’t noticed it, but the lady buying some of the birds from me noticed it when we were putting them in her cooler. I had to give her a discount of $0.50 per pound on that particular bird. I had a net profit from the St. Louis delivery of $346.38.

The people who helped me were my mother, the Extension Youth Program Associate. She supported me in all of my endeavors. Aurora Grand Meats processed my turkeys for me. The Morris’s’, the Wagstaff’s, Benny’s Best and Maude’s Market all helped me by purchasing turkeys from me.

This year, I had thirteen poults live out of sixteen hatched. To fill my orders to purchasers, I bought some similarly raised, heritage breed turkeys. I found that I actually cleared more money on the birds that I bought and resold than I did on the birds that I raised myself. This is because of the amount of feed required to over-winter the parent stock and the amount of expensive, high protein feed necessary to get the poults off to a good start. However, I’m not sure a person would always be able to find a source of pasture-raised, heritage breed birds at a reasonable price to fill your orders. I found several of the birds for sale, but not at a price that I could make any money selling them on a per pound basis. So, I will continue raising my own birds and if I need to, purchase outside birds as I have in the past two years.

There is a state-inspected processor located ten miles from our farm. They charge $5 per turkey to process. I can’t justify investing in the processing equipment (plucker) when I have them so close and reasonable priced. However, this could change in the future. I know of others who drive several hours just to have their birds processed in a state-inspected facility.

As it will be another two years or so before the orchard starts producing, I won’t know exactly how grazing the birds under the trees will help out for awhile.

Fresh, processed turkeys were selling for about $3.50 per pound in our area this Thanksgiving. I sold mine in the St. Louis market for $5.50 per pound and both of the ladies who bought from me resold them at a profit. They both have large email lists of people who are interested in purchasing naturally and/or locally-raised food. So, they just send out an email telling what they have available and at what price and people purchase it. One of the ladies required a security deposit on the birds, but she retailed them at $10 per pound.

I can see how adding this type of marketing to what I am already doing could be a big help to my business. So, I am in the process of writing a new SARE Youth Grant so that I may purchase a lap top computer and start a data base of potential customers. I could also build a website to promote my turkeys and the other species that we raise.

My project encompassed four different aspects of Sustainable Agriculture:
1. Natural pest management. (Turkeys also eat bugs.)
2. Landscape diversity. (Fruit trees add to the aesthetics of our property, they also provide pollen and nectar for our honey bees, and food for our table.)
3. Value added, direct marketing. (I sold a pair of live birds, but I made more money selling them by dressed weight.)
4. Poultry production.

I am learning more how all of the different aspects play a part in agriculture, how they all work together.

My project for the previous year was written up in the North Central Region SARE Farmers’ Forum Highlight summary of reports.

Again this year, I gave a presentation at the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference in the Farmers’ Forum. Then, there was an article put in our county newspaper about that opportunity. The newspaper in Columbia, MO published a two-page spread about heritage turkeys the week of the Conference. They had a highlighted section about me bringing my turkeys to the Conference and inviting everyone to come out and experience it.

The brochure is to help spread the word about what I’m doing and to help me market more birds. (I also used it as an English class assignment and got a 100% on it!)

Attached is the brochure and under a separate email is the photo and article that appeared in our county newspaper.

This was the second year the North Central Region SARE Program sponsored a Youth Grant program. As a participant, do you have any recommendations for the regional Administrative Council about this program? Is there anything you would like to see changed?

No, it’s fine. I do appreciate receiving the funding earlier this year than the first year.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.