Editor’s note: “A Better Life” is a new weekly column by the USU Extension – Tooele Office that will focus on a variety of topics intended to enhance quality of life.
After Halloween it’s time to think about turkey and prepare for Thanksgiving.
With all the commercial emphasis on Christmas, it’s getting harder to remember Thanksgiving, but 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) youth have been planning for Thanksgiving since last April when they ordered turkeys to raise for the State 4-H and FFA Junior Turkey Show.
The Utah State Junior Turkey Show has been operating for 60 years. It started in Sanpete County but eventually moved to Box Elder County where it is currently held each year in November.
Youth raise turkeys from July until November when they are processed then judged on weight and conformation. The top 26 Toms and 26 Hens are then sold at auction to the highest bidder. One recent Tom sold for $500. Participants are required to turn in a record book about their turkey project. It contains information about the number of birds, purchase, feed, and processing costs, weights, rate of gain and other financial and production data.
Raising good turkeys starts before they are received. A secure brooder (a heated enclosure) should be prepared and ready to receive the 1-2 day-old poults. A round enclosure is best to keep the poults from bunching up in corners. I like to use a small round galvanized stock water tank, but an enclosure can be built from cardboard or chicken wire or you can use a swimming pool.
It is best to have shavings for bedding and keep it fresh and dry. Some kind of heat source is needed so the poults can stay warm. A hanging light bulb or heat lamp works well. Temperature can be controlled by raising or lowering the light. There must be enough room so the poults can move closer or farther from the lamp to adjust their temperature. It can be raised as they get bigger and less sensitive to temperature swings. You must also be careful with heat lamps and shavings not to start a fire.
A fresh water supply and feed must also be readily available. Fresh water is most important. After about 5-6 weeks when they are fully feathered the brooding period will be done and you can put them in a larger outdoor pen. You will be amazed at how fast turkeys grow. Feed conversion is 2:1, which means for every two pounds of feed they eat they gain one pound of body weight.
Youth from Tooele County have the opportunity to participate in both the State Show and a county show. This year the state show will be held Nov. 10 at the county fair grounds in Tremonton and the Tooele County show will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 13 at Tooele High School.
Fifty-nine Tooele County youth are raising over 500 birds this year. Tooele County usually has the most participants and birds raised in the state. One year I remember we processed almost 900 turkeys from Tooele County. The public is welcome to come to the auction and buy a fresh turkey.
If you want a great fresh turkey for thanksgiving, find FFA or 4-H youth raising turkeys and ask if they are raising one you can buy. If you want more information about the turkey show, or how to join FFA and/or 4-H, contact your high school FFA advisor or youth. You can also always call us at the USU Extension Office at 435-277-2400.
Linden Greenhalgh is the county director of the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele.