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Turkey Tuesday: Heartache

***This is a repost from last summer, to show you why this heat wave we’re experiencing is so hard on the farm.  Heat doesn’t always affect the turkeys this way, but one of our flocks is only a couple weeks from going to market, and they are not used to this heat, so it is especially hard on them.  Since last summer, we have installed more misters in the barns to keep the birds cool, and hubby also spent yesterday afternoon spraying water directly from a tank onto the birds and will do the same today.***

My husband works hard.  Really hard.

And in the course of a few hours, the fruits of his labor disappeared.


Yesterday was the hottest day of the summer so far (and pray that it was the hottest for the rest of the summer, too.)

The heat index was 115 with over 90% humidity.


Because of this, Bart spent the day doing odd jobs around the farm, while checking in on the turkeys regularly to see how they were handling the heat.  We have fourteen 48 inch fans in each building that suck air through, creating a 10 mph breeze.  We also have misters that spray water on the birds, keeping it moist, although that wasn’t much help with all of our humidity yesterday.  We do everything we can to keep the turkeys comfortable, although it’s hard to get the barns much cooler than it is outside.

But these measures worked.  Until about 6 PM.

Between 6PM and 10PM we lost approximately 2000 birds due to the heat. That is 10% of our flock, in just 4 hours.  Normally,85-90% of our birds live long enough to go to market.  10% gone in one day is a HUGE loss.  About 80,000 pounds of meat.

Bart has taken care of this flock for almost 4 months.  In a few short weeks, they would have gone to market.  Those 2,000 birds had hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of feed in them already.  And at 80,000 pounds, we will be losing out on thousands of dollars that would have been used to pay the feed bill, the electric bill, the construction loan, the equipment loans, and our mortgage.  With yesterday’s loss, we will be lucky if we break even with this flock.  More than likely, we will lose money.

But even bigger than the financial impact is the emotional impact.  Can you imagine what it must have been like for Bart last night?  The turkeys crowded against the walls of the building when they got hot.  (We don’t know why they do this, but they do.  Bart’s dad, at his farm down the road, let his turkeys out into a fenced in area, and they crowded the edge of the fence, too.)  When Bart noticed his birds crowding, he immediately began making passes up and down the walls, shooing them back to the middle of the building.  And no matter what he did, they crowded back, suffocating each other against the side of the building.

For 4 hours, he went up and down the .1 mile long buildings, trying to save the birds.  And for 4 hours, he watched as his birds died.

He came in, exhausted, around 10 PM.  He had not eaten since lunch, and felt sick to his stomach from stress and heartache.  Then, when he finally calmed enough to sleep, he was woken 3 times by alarms in the buildings.

Before 6 this morning, he went out to the barns with a couple high school kids, the skid loader, and a dump truck to clean up.


I was hesitant to post this.  Some animal rights group may come and say that we are mistreating our turkeys, blah, blah, blah.  But this post isn’t about the turkeys.  It’s about the men and women who work so hard to feed America, and really, the world.  And no matter what you think about farming, or meat, or whatever, I’m sure you can identify with the loss we are feeling right now.  I’m having trouble putting into words the heartache I feel for my husband.  He works so hard everyday.  Seven days a week, day and night. While Adam and I go to the zoo, he works.  While I sit here blogging, he works.  When all his friends are tailgating at the football games, he works.   And sometimes it pays off.  It just seems like that much hard work should ALWAYS pay off.  He doesn’t deserve this.


Would you like to comment?

  1. Oh, I can't read the rest. It made me so sad the first tie. Hope the extra misters are helping. The girls were out swinging with the sprinkler turned on them! Too funny! Praying the heat will break soon!

  2. Oh my, that's just heartbreaking :( Praying the weather is kinder this year (and maybe you can knock some sense into those birds?!?!?).

  3. Oh that was so sad:( It must hurt to see your hubby go through that after all his hard work. I hope the extra sprinklers make this summer a better one for you!!!

  4. I remember this. Are they doing better this year? I hope your extra effort has paid off, I'd hate to see you lose any more.

  5. I sure hope it's not happening again! Good luck to your husband as he cares for the turkeys in the heat.

  6. Oh my goodness. Good luck to you!


  7. I hope the turkeys make it through this year, for them and for your family. x

  8. Thank you for all you do. Remember, the best can do is all you can do.

  9. Oh, that is such a hard read :(
    I feel so pathetic moaning about our (cold and windy) weather and all I have to worry about is some cauliflower and brocolli.
    To see your animals, your livelihood, all your efforts, die in front of your eyes like that must be so heartbreaking..... beyond words.
    Oh, I do hope you don't suffer anything like that this year....