Back to my Oregon Trail analogy. Not every turkey lives.
Apparently, my experimental "pecking garden" also created a habitat for a viscous group of racoons that have been terrorizing my turkeys the last week. Monday morning, there we 8 of them in pieces, pulled halfway under the fence. I'm hoping that by rolling the crop down and setting some traps we can eliminate the pressure ASAP!
But the real ugly part showed itself this year in the brooder. The brooder is the building where we raise the chicks for the first month. It has in-floor heat and three (3) overhead "brooder stoves." The turkeys like it warm - like 99.5 degrees at the start. The first few weeks are very stressful as you are constantly checking on the birds to make sure the temperature is just right so that they don't crowd and smother each other.
This year, I started a second batch of turkeys in August to meet demand for smaller birds. The first 4 days were awesome. Of the 750, I had lost only 1 in 4 days. That's unusual. There is almost always about 2% that naturally don't make it.
Then, on a Sunday morning (day 5), I went in and found 4 dead. I came back a few hours later and another 5. A few hours later, the same. That day I lost 23. The next day 70. The day after 100 plus, and the trend continued. By Monday morning I was really concerned and acted as fast as I could.
Understanding a turkey poult. All poultry has what's called a yolk sac inside them. It is literally the egg yolk. The yolk allows the chick to survive for about 3 to 4 days before it has to learn to eat and drink on its own. Turkeys are harder to start than chickens, but they are also copycats. I started 1500 meat chickens with the turkeys to help train the turkeys to find the feed and water. It has always worked for me.
The chickens thrived. The turkeys continued to die off. I added different feeders, different waterer, and everything I could think for the facility. I was watching the birds eat and drink, so I was doubtful that they were "starve outs" as one might suspect.
Using Science. I scrambled and started testing everything. I sent in feed to test for nutrition analysis, bacteria, and different toxins. I sent water samples away and checked for coliform, e-coli, and mineral status. All of the results came back clean.
My vet is a great resource and I called him immediately. We talked about what was going on and what we could do quickly. He suggested skipping his office and heading straight for OSU to take turkeys to their lab for necropsy. On Tuesday morning, I headed out to Columbus with a bucket of the freshly dead turkeys (yeah, it sucked).
And the results. By the time the results came back about a week later, I was down to just 40 turkeys or so. The lab traced it back to a yolk sac infection of staphylococcus aureus, something that indicates there was a problem at the hatchery either with their procedure or they received infected eggs.
Today, I'm sad to say only 4 of that second group survive. The first group I started in July is doing good, but my second group is non-existent.
My lesson learned - I'm not sure there was anything I could have done here other than get my chicks elsewhere. I did, however, learn in my research a lot about turkeys, turkey sanitation, and other symptoms to be aware of in the future. I figured out some new cleaning practices in the brooder and found some different watering systems that will improve my production in the future.
Thanksgiving Order Form. Will be going live very soon! We will announce via email.