crouchley hall farm

  • plan A for Christmas

    Leap Year day and you might expect that things at Crouchley have been quiet during February. Well they have outdoors but inside there's been a lot of pondering going on. There's a lot more planning involved in farming than you might expect - which animals to breed from - what to do with your grazing - when to buy hay or straw - you're constantly trying to plan ways to improve what you do. Of course there are a lot of things that you can't do anything about: the weather is the most obvious and it doesn't matter what we do but a ewe can't produce a lamb in anything much under 147 days. But there are things that you can tweak and alter and change and these are the things that affect our plans.

    The reason I'm writing about this is that I've just ordered our 2016 flock of KellyBronze turkeys from the Kelly hatchery. Planning for next Christmas in February does feel rather like wishing your life away, when we've not even started lambing yet but it's a feature of the slow farming methods we use to produce "proper" KellyBronze birds for Christmas.

    Our birds come to us in July when they're 5 weeks old. So they'll have to hatch in the middle of June. Turkey eggs take 28 days to incubate, which means our eggs will have to start incubating in the middle of May at the very latest and that's only 12 weeks away ! In fact, our eggs will probably be laid in the 3 weeks or so before the middle of May, then be carefully stored in controlled conditions, until it's time for them to go into the incubators. So that 12 weeks has just become 9 weeks. When you look at it like this, I'm almost at the last minute !

    Of course, we can't just put in a random order for "x" number of turkey poults. All our customers need Christmas turkeys of about the right size for their families & friends and being free range birds the weights that eventually come out of the field aren't always exactly what we would like but we have to do our best to come up with the right plan.

    Over the last 30 years the Kelly family have selectively bred from their original flock of the last few hundred bronze turkeys, so that today they have several strains of KellyBronze birds. All of them selected for quality of eating, a slow rate of growth and an ability to thrive out-of-doors on a natural cereal based feed without additives. So to plan our order for the poults that will become your Christmas turkey, we have to look at what everyone wanted last year, guess what they might want to order this year and then allow a few more birds here and there to allow for new customers.

    Whichever way you look at it, free range turkey farming is much more of an art than a science.



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