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Is a Good Brood Enough to Ensure the Success of a Turkey Flock? Logo Feedia

Compliance with the standards of comfort, feeding, and access to water is key to successful turkey farming. Turkeys are especially fragile in their early days. Getting them off to a good brood is encouraging, yet this stage alone cannot entirely determine the eventual outcome of a turkey flock. How can a turkey flock be successfully managed? How can one achieve the best cost of production of turkey meat?

Prior to the turkeys’ arrival, a set of precautions must be taken for hosting these young animals: area washing, building disinfection, and disinfection of the water system. Additionally, it is of utmost importance to heat the building for 48 hours in the summer, and 72 hours minimum in winter is a prerequisite. With a concrete floor, the floor must be heated and dried before the litter is spread. The temperature of the bedding before the animals arrive should be between 31 and 33°C.


Managing the quality of water and air for turkeys’ optimum comfort

Upon animals’ arrival, the farmer usually tends to pay more attention to the animals’ thermal comfort rather than to the way they can access water – the latter being just as essential. Indeed, turkey poults are usually less sleek than their chick counterparts. They will have much more trouble finding water and feed. In fact, round start-ups (localised heating) should always be preferred: a 1.2% difference in mortality at 10 days has already been observed between a round start-up and an ambient start-up in different organisations. A temperature of between 33 and 36°C is recommended.

The quality of drinking water (ORP above 600 mv) and turkeys’ access to this water and its upkeep at a suitable temperature are equally essential. To ensure the lasting quality of water, one should not hesitate to flush nipples every day during the starting period. Finally, it is necessary to be extremely cautious about changes occurring at the overall level of temperature in the building (any change is usually reflected by animals’ behaviour), the rate of humidity (50% to 60%), and air renewal (the rate of CO2 must be between 1500 and 2500 ppm).

The risk of a difficult beginning in brooding turkeys

Turkeys that are started well have greater chances of finishing well. Yet brooding in good condition is not sufficient to ensure the success of a flock considering that turkeys usually live longer than other avian species. Failures occurring at the beginning of the cycle are the sign that a flock is likely to be difficult.
Often, for economic reasons, some farmers are likely to skip the pre-heating phase. This means that animals’ body temperatures may drop to a point below their comfort zone. Hence these animals are likely to be weakened by this sudden change. They could then be susceptible to all kinds of diseases (enteritis, E. coli, etc.), which are likely to result in mortalities and stunting: 100 g of growth retardation at 28 days old is likely to turn into 800 g of growth retardation at 126 days (Techna study).

Three other conditions for successfully managing a turkey flock

Additional safety measures must be followed to ensure a productive flock:

  • Ventilation conditions of the building are key to the maintenance of a good litter. Should this not be the case, bedding material (pine shavings, chopped straw) must be added to the litter for bedding before animals find themselves in an uncomfortable position – remember that turkeys sleep with their bellies against the floor. Enteritis is an expensive disease to treat, yet it might end up costing even more money loss in terms of unachieved growth performance rates and low feed efficiency. In addition, flocks may end up being heterogeneous as a result.
  • Effective monitoring of all breeding data - the ambient temperature, growth curve of animals, daily water consumption, animal behaviour, dropping quality- is essential for the successful management of your flock.
    The props and equipment (feeders and drinkers) should be suited and provided in sufficient amounts so that the flock is well-supplied in feed and water, whatever the age of the animals. To stimulate feed and water intake, place feed and water over the entire surface of the building. A turkey should not walk more than 1.5 m to find water or feed.

Within a breeding flock, a cycle that is not fully mastered from the start is likely to lead to varied results and ultimately impact the overall production level. Certain nutritional investments could end up being inappropriately used as a result. However, some software such as WEFEED allows for the establishment of a relationship between the nutritional investments made and the ensuing weight gain generated. They can thus help point out a gap which could likely determine the origins of bad feed conversion performance in animals.

Whatever the size of your flock and your rearing conditions, our specialists are here to help you determine their assets, their weaknesses and areas for improvement. For more information please do not hesitate to consult our experts!

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