[Market-farming] Dealing with baby grasshoppers; long

KAKerby at aol.com KAKerby at aol.com
Sat Sep 8 23:00:15 EDT 2012

Richard, I'd be curious to know if Bourbon Reds happen to be the turkeys  
you have, so that's what you use, versus you've tried other turkey breeds and 
 they didn't work out as well.  We have Narragansets and I'd like to find  
them "other" employment besides growing up to become Thanksgiving meals.   
It would be nice if they worked for a living while eating, THEN their sale 
would  be a bonus.  Love to double-layer things like that.
Kathryn Kerby
Snohomish, WA
Ruminations - essays on the farming life at  frogchorusfarm.com/weblog.html
In a message dated 9/8/2012 3:59:17 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time,  
ramoyer at gmail.com writes:

When we had two acres, we put out Nolo bait, by spreading bran infested  
with the grasshopper parasite 'Nosema'.  Semaspore appears to be another  
brand of same.

Worked very well, beginning the next year, for multiple years.  From  a 
single treatment.  Am still impressed by the level of control.

Now with 70 acres, our flock of bourbon red turkeys are the best  
grasshopper hunters of our various poultry.

When very young, we have hens who will take their poults each morning  
(10-15 or so each) and patrol those areas with higher infestations. Some hens  
can handle 20 or more, adopting from delinquent mothers.   We tend to  herd 
them to those areas with the most grasshoppers.  Grasshoppers tend  to come 
from grassy field (pasture, hayfield) edges into row crops, so one  
management strategy is to keep grass strips of sufficient width very short  that 
surround row crops, and allow taller grass farther away, which is  grasshopper 
preferred habitat.  But if the only moist soil and tender  young plants is 
your baby fall veggies, they can migrate over.  May make  sense then to 
irrigate where you want them to stay, if rains are lacking.  Also, mowing, haying 
and/or rotational grazing in the preferred  grasshopper habitat and poultry 
feeding area keeps young foliage coming on,  hence attractive to multiple 
critters in the farm ecosystem.

Not by design, but by sheer dumb luck our set up has the most turkeys  
patrolling in the grassy strips and taller pasture/hayfield beside the row  crop 
areas, separated by a good fence that keeps turkeys out of crops once  they 
are juveniles.  We still need to train the turkeys to stay out of  crop 
areas once older, which requires someone on the farm all the time, during  that 
transition, someone with sharp ears and eyes.  (Yes, heritage  turkeys can 
be trained, at least in our flock.) 

When and how we feed commercial mix also needs to be timed to maximize  
grasshopper feeding.  That is, train turkeys to forage before filling up  on 
purchased feed.  We often feed just before they roost. Esp. as days  get 
shorter and nights longer and cooler.

In our breeding program, my daughter selects for those hens who stay with  
their poults the longest, and are the best teachers of foraging for  
grasshoppers, green matter and grass seed.  This helps entrain positive  behaviors 
and means if we steer the mothers in the right area, their young  follow.

Once the young leave their mothers, they become unruly teenagers with a  
social order all their own.  (Stay out late, refuse to be seen with  parents, 
have no regard for their messes, trash the best vehicles, play in the  road, 
etc.)  But by this phase (closer to Thanksgiving), we've often had  a good 
killing frost, the crops are more established, so the grasshoppers not  so 

During critical points of grasshopper control, you could possibly import  
some turkeys or other birds, to set grasshopper numbers back.  Helps to  have 
their owner around, or a turkey whisperer onsite to know how to manage  
flock behavior.

Peacocks also work well as insect hunters; but they are so light as  
juveniles and adults they tend to fly over any fence, any time and can be a  
problem with tomatoes.

Don't know how well guineas would work, but they also are very mobile.  

In summary, Nosema bait if no poultry, possibly both, or just poultry if  
you are trying to raise poultry food onsite.  

Richard Moyer
Where the rains mean fall crop germination and many stunted weeds now  
going to  seed.

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