#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 10°C Wednesday 18 May 2022

From farm to plate: How your turkey has been looked after over the past 4 months

Ever wondered about the work that goes into getting that turkey on your plate?

Image: Cliodhna Russell via TheJournal.ie

AS YOU SIT down to your Christmas dinner today, you may not realise that it has taken around four months to get that turkey to your plate …. and it’s probably a hen.

Turkeys need a constant supply of meal and water and must be kept in the correct temperature.

A turkey farmer for the past eight years, David Russell told TheJournal.ie exactly how much work goes into getting your turkey ready.

“I get in about 15,000 turkeys in August. I only get hens but there would always be a couple of hundred males by accident.

“The hens are what most people would have for Christmas – the males are huge and would be more for the hotel trade really.

I have two sheds and there’s about 7,500 turkeys in each shed. The sheds are 12,500 square feet each.

“I get them in when they’re six weeks old and mind them for another 10 weeks.”

Always on standby

“The first thing I do everyday is walk the sheds and check on the turkeys and also make sure nothing has gone wrong mechanically.


“Then after breakfast I’d clean out the shed using shavings for bedding. It takes about three to four hours. They get dirtier when they get bigger so I have to bed the sheds a bit more often.

“I use about 25 bales of shavings on each shed everyday.

“The water is automated and the meal is automated so it’s just a matter of making sure everything is running alright.

You have to be on standby all the time- my phone rings if the power or the water goes.

‘They’d start dying after an hour’

“If the power goes off I need to get the monitor going straight away.

One of the sheds is a fan shed and if the fan stopped going there would be no air going through the sheds and they’d start dying after an hour or two.

“Then there’s always a chance a feeder could break. They eat a special turkey ration meal.

“The turkeys eat about 7 tonnes of feed a day by the end when they’re big. They eat about 230 tonnes altogether for the 10 weeks I have them.

Turkeys Two Source: Cliodhna Russell via TheJournal.ie

“They also drink about 11,000 or 12,000 liters a day. No feed and no water are the two big stresses – especially water.

If the feed or the water went they would get very stressed and when it comes back on they would get in a panic and just generally be stressed.

When asked what’s it like being in a shed with all those turkeys, Russell said, “They’re very noisy and they smell but I don’t get it anymore.”

“About a month before they’re due to go – a sample of the turkeys are weighed to make sure they’re the right weight.

“They’re about 16 or 17 weeks when they get loaded in the trailer to go get killed.”

90099008 Source: Sasko Lazarov via Photocall Ireland

Read: How to cook the perfect Christmas turkey>

About the author:

Read next: