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Partnerships Help MN Lead in Turkey Production

by 5m Editor
17 November 2010, at 12:20a.m.

US - With the holidays fast approaching, especially Thanksgiving, all things turkey become top of mind. As a University of Minnesota Extension poultry specialist, Sally Noll, University of Minnesota Extension says she is often called upon to answer questions during the holiday season.

Usually, the questions trend toward trivia but they offer a chance to help the public understand turkey production as an important agricultural industry in Minnesota.

Minnesota is ranked No. 1 in the nation in turkey production, having raised 47 million turkeys this year out of a total of 242 million in the US. Minnesota is home to the second-largest turkey processing company (Jennie-O Turkey Store) and one of the largest turkey hatcheries (Willmar Poultry Company). Two other processors, Turkey Valley Farms and Northern Pride Turkey, also are based in Minnesota.

Since the beginnings of turkey farming in the early 1930s and the formation of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA) in 1939, the University of Minnesota has been assisting turkey producers and processing companies and partnering with the MTGA on research and educational Extension programs in nutrition, bird health, management, genetics and breeding.

Many changes occurred over the years as production grew, but one of the major changes was the transition of turkey production from a seasonal to a year-round operation. A whole new body of knowledge was needed and developed, especially related to rearing turkeys during the cold Minnesota winters.

The current Extension poultry programme has two major areas of focus: assisting producers in improving and maintaining turkey and chicken flock health, and developing best feeding practices when using corn co-products that are left over from the fermentation of corn grain for ethanol production (such as distillers dried grains with solubles; DDGS). Approximately one-third of Minnesota's corn crop is used in ethanol production, so supplies of distillers grain is growing and is often available in areas where poultry is being raised.

To learn about upcoming conferences and workshops for turkey and other poultry producers, or to access online educational materials from the University of Minnesota, click here.