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In Your Field: Ian Garnett - 'We are preparing for the arrival of 2,000 Christmas turkeys'

As I write in the last few days of August, I am heartened to see a forecast suggesting better weather is seemingly heading our way.

We have found the weather a bit of a challenge in our little bit of Cheshire.

 

August nudges us to start preparing for the arrival of Christmas turkeys. We rear, pluck, process and sell about 2,000 at Christmas to longstanding customers, which are mainly farm shops and village butchers.

 

Turkeys are quite hardy, so pole barns are ideal, affording ample fresh air and plenty of natural daylight.

 

In our case, the turkeys occupy youngstock buildings, so it is turkeys out, heifers in, which leads to a busy slot dismantling and cleaning between Christmas and New Year.

 

Wet autumns can be a challenge to manage the youngstock outside, so in recent years we have tried to graze stubble turnips or kale with varying levels of success.

 

If nothing else it has made us appreciate how important good fencing really is.


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The turkeys arrive in slots over a three- to four-week window to achieve a range of weights for the special day.

 

For us that means six different breeds hatched on six different weeks to fulfil the criteria. These are all housed separately.

 

Hatcheries in the UK are fast disappearing, so control of supply and cost is in few hands. Disease challenges can be a threat and preventative medicine is not encouraged.

 

The opportunity to finish off silage-making should be behind us as you read this. First and second cuts looked good, dry and a nice colour.

 

However, the prolonged wet spell has meant the nitrogen has all but run out so has left our final silage lacking colour. At times like this I wish we had a spare dedicated clamp for cuts, just like that for heifers.

 

Combining of winter barley is behind us but, with about 20 hectares (50 acres) of wheat and a field of badly weathered spring barley to go at, all eyes will be focused on that job next, as well as emptying lagoons before deadline day.

 

The rotation we seem to be settling on is maize followed by winter barley, followed by stubble turnips and then back to maize.

 

To achieve this we need to concentrate on the best soils the farm has to offer. That said, a wetter than average August and no kale/turnips sown thus far does seem to present a challenge.

 

Having lost all our livestock markets in the county, we have begun trialling sexed semen on maiden heifers.

 

No results to report back, other than the bulls looking rather nervous.

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