[Market-farming] Dealing with Baby Grasshoppers; now Turkeys
ramoyer at gmail.com
Thu Sep 13 06:15:31 EDT 2012
Sorry for the delayed reply. The only breeding flock we've established is
the Bourbon Reds. We're surrounded by broken woods, wild turkeys and
therefore turkey hunters. Bourbon Reds are unique in their coloration,
very different than the native birds, and therefore less likely to be
shot. Most other heritage breeds are too easily confused with wild birds.
I think in principle, you'd be able to select for the traits you want in a
breeding flock with various heritage turkey breeds, ones that head for
grass and bugs in the morning and throughout the day, instead of camping at
the feed trough. In farm visits, I've been struck by this: though animal
breeds are distinguished by their sets of traits, there are individuals
within all breeds that may have that trait matching your farm needs, such
as reducing inputs. Case in point: we visited a goat dairy, who was
selecting for very long lactation goats, to avoid dry goats and breeding
challenges. Milk all year long to minimize the high then low/no volume
swings of frequent kidding. They had all the major breeds, and had
selected very long lactation nannies from each of them, though some breeds
were known for long lactation over others.
At our place, we're selecting for milk cows and goats that maintain the
best body condition on our pasture and browse, weather, fescue, parasite
load, etc. Milk volume is a lower priority; we make and sell soap with
goat milk. We're not shy about crossing breeds to get the animals we want,
and culling those that don't fit our goals.
A turkey hen can raise many more poults than she can hatch, so we hatch
eggs from multiple hens with the traits we want, then give all babies to
the best 2-3 mother hens. So they can inherit certain traits from their
natural mother (quick growth, disease resistance, etc). Then learn other
valuable traits from their adoptive mother, such as where and when to find
foods on our farm, alertness to predators, returning to coop each night,
But free-ranging turkeys still need help. Watch the foods that turkeys
forage, which bugs when, which seed plants and wild berries through the
season. Then encourage such behaviors, or at least minimize interference.
With the price of corn and soybeans, all the foraging they do is welcome.
Tune your hearing to the distinctive peeps of lost poults during such
outings, especially during the first few critical weeks. A guard dog
trained to protect poultry helps, for various predators enjoy snacking on
As for other 'employment'/layering with turkeys: we make and sell pine
cone 'turkeys' for thanksgiving place settings, with various sizes of pine
cones festooned with real turkey feathers. We also collect and sell
individual turkey feathers, and entered a turkey feather wreath in the fair
this year. Have made turkey sausage from ones that weren't the best
Thanksgiving or Christmas birds. Also sell feet and extra giblets for
certain cooks. Have been told spurs and beards have markets, though we've
not explored those.
We've yet to find a price point where we can't sell out of Heritage turkeys
for the holidays. Though we have cut back on our numbers this year, due to
feed cost and demands of other projects.
> Message: 3
> Date: Sat, 8 Sep 2012 23:00:15 -0400 (EDT)
> From: KAKerby at aol.com
> Subject: Re: [Market-farming] Dealing with baby grasshoppers; long
> To: market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org
> Message-ID: <3014b.4ea9750f.3d7d603f at aol.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> surround row crops, and allow taller grass farther away, which is
> 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,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> have no regard for their messes, trash the best vehicles, play in the
> 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
> 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
> SW VA
> Where the rains mean fall crop germination and many stunted weeds now
> going to seed.
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