Wednesday October 20, 2021

Poor market access gobbling up turkey farming potential

September 17, 2021

HYDERABAD: Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is the most productive domestic bird in terms of fast physical growth and value of its eggs and meat in local and international markets. But here in Sindh, turkeys are missing from the fast growing poultry industry.

Mustafa Palh, a manager at a private birds’ farm near Tando Allahyar city, said turkey lays around 100 or more eggs a year. But, he observed that it cannot sit properly with a full incubation period for hatching its eggs like chicken.

Therefore, they usually put turkey eggs under chicken for hatching. “You can see turkey chicks wandering after chicken at the farm, which is at an initial stage to be developed for commercial purposes,” he said.

The farmer has kept selected birds at the farm, including poultry, common turkey, three species of partridges and pet birds, including parrots for breeding.

He said turkey chicks attract visitors due to its physical health, diverse look and movement. The farm has two subspecies of turkey, black and white, wandering together in the premises.

The farmer has put grass in some places, which is an attractive feed for the birds that eat leaves, flowers and seeds.

Muhammad Murad, another farmer in Matiari city neighbourhood, sharing his experience, said turkey was profitable bird. “But despite its importance, there was no market mechanism to sell and purchase the bird and its eggs for common breeders.”

He said since there was no turkey farming mechanism unlike other birds nearby, which was why only a few people spared spaces on sprawling courtyards or in backyards for breeding this specific bird. Thus, only individual farmers could provide eggs or juvenile pairs of this bird for breeding at home.

Ghulam Murtaza claims to have bought two pairs of chicks of common turkey hardly a year back from a village farmer for breeding at home and now he has a small flock of the bird. There are more species, both large and small. Village farmers prefer to keep common turkey, which is smaller and beautiful.

Murtaza was hopefully that the flock would increase through traditional breeding methods and he would be able to sell eggs, chicks and mature birds for some side income.

Reports show that turkey eggs and meat contain the same nutrients as chicken eggs and meat. A turkey egg is 50 percent larger than a chicken egg, which contains nearly twice the calories.

The prices of turkey eggs range from Rs200-300 each, which the people buy from farms for breeding by hens. Similarly, the price of a pair of juvenile turkeys ranges between Rs4,000 and Rs6,000. The mature birds pair have more value ranging from Rs10,000 to Rs12,000, depending on size and health.

Turkey seems popular in terms of productivity, equal to broiler poultry, because of fast growth and laying costly eggs. People keep these birds for breeding to do business due to the demand for meat of these birds in the local markets.

Turkey meat price ranges from Rs800/kg to Rs1,000/kg, which is available only at selected restaurants, because it is not very popular among people yet. The meat has high-quality protein, B vitamins, zinc, and phosphorus.

It may support various aspects of health, including muscle growth and maintenance, due to its rich supply of nutrients, reports show.

Farmers believe that turkey is more socialised and loves people, while visiting farms and moving close to it. In rare cases the bird turns aggressive towards other animals or even humans.

In many villages flocks of turkeys can be seen foraging along with chicken at dunghills.

Farmers prefer to sell the male turkey (tom) for meat and keep the hen for breeding purposes at makeshift farms in villages. It does not need costly feed and can survive on wheat, pearl millet grains and green grasses in backyards and at dunghills. But farm managers always arrange poultry feed for these birds.

For agriculture farmer families, besides small animals like goats and sheep, turkey seem a favourite. They keep a few birds at home and get more birds within a few months.

Turkeys are omnivores, and can eat plants, grasses as well as meat, besides grains. This bird eats small animals and reptiles like snakes, lizards, rats, frogs, mice etc.

Some farmers believe that usually it protects its chicks and itself from attacks by snakes, dogs or any other animals.

Only a common disease among larger birds known as Rani khet may kill turkey like peacocks and other birds.

Turkeys were domesticated in the Americas. There are two extant species of turkeys; the wild ones (Meleagris gallopave) from eastern and central North America, and the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata), which is from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

In the wild, the birds inhabit forests and woods.

Farmers in coastal areas said they have experimented to keep turkey as pets, but could not sustain the bird due to an unfavourable environment.

Leading livestock experts believe that inaccessibility to markets of this specific bird for common farmers might be the reason which kept them from farming these birds.

They emphasise imparting training to young farmers on farm management, feed and marketing to promote this neglected bird.