Turkeys – food and water
Nutritional information for turkeys.
Turkeys must have access to adequate and appropriate water for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.
A clean, adequate supply of water must be supplied at all times. Water should be placed in a cool shaded area in hot weather. If automatic drinkers are used, they should always be fitted with a failsafe mechanism. Water needs to be cleaned out regularly and checked daily to ensure that it has not been tipped over or automatic device has failed. When supplying water for very young poults in a small cage, care must be taken to ensure the water is quite shallow so that there is no risk of drowning. A covered water trough, which automatically refills, mounted outside on the shed wall is recommended for drinking water supply to avoid wetting the litter in the nesting area. The drinking trough should be long enough to allow each bird in the flock to drink at the one time (15 cm per bird and if less, than two or more drinkers are needed). There are a variety of automatic waterers available from poultry equipment suppliers.
Water medications should be introduced gradually and closely monitored to ensure correct dosage and consumption of adequate water quantity.
Turkeys must have access to adequate and appropriate feed for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.
Quantity and quality of feed should be based on:
- Bodyweight and/or fat/body condition score
- Extra demands based on growth and egg laying.
- Prevailing/predicted weather conditions.
Regular assessment should be made of the needs of turkeys in relation to the quantity and quality of feed. This can be done by weighing the birds and performing visual assessment of their condition.
Turkeys are naturally foraging animals and so for optimum digestion should be provided with a variety of feed and vegetation. Turkeys should always be fed out of a trough or feeder and never off the ground. While they can be fed entirely on purpose made concentrate like pellets, turkeys gain both physical and behavioural enrichment from having access to vegetation such as grass, seeds, grubs, insects and food scraps in addition to their daily ration of concentrate. Suitable foods for turkeys daily ration include commercial pellets, crumbles, mash, grain, green feed and grit. Broiler chicken food is a suitable food for turkeys. Crumbles and mash should be used for young poults and grit is important to enable healthy gut function as it aids in their ability to break down food. Grit aids in the development of eggshells and is very important for female turkeys that are producing eggs. Turkeys will thrive and appreciate a grazing area and grazing will reduce the amount of commercial pellets required.
Ad lib supply of feed is preferred for turkeys. The essential dietary needs of turkeys include a 28% protein ration for the first four weeks, 24% for the next four weeks and then reduced to 20% until grown. When the birds are young, use medicated rations to counter blackhead disease. Turkey diets differs from poultry diets , as they require more protein, vitamins and minerals to meet their fast growth. When using concentrate designed for fowls, ensure it is a broiler feed that provides the required amount of protein.
Specific feeding requirements can be found at: Turkey feeding
Commercially prepared food is preferred as it ensures all nutritional needs are met. Other feed types like grains, green forages and kitchen scraps should only be fed in addition, not as a replacement.
Supplementary feeds must be carefully measured out and fed according to the birds individual dietary requirements to ensure that the turkeys are getting all of their required nutrients. The turkey's age, size, breed, sex, production stage, production type and environmental factors, will influence dietary requirements.
When changing feeds, the rule is to introduce the new food types slowly and carefully.
Regular monitoring should be carried out to help identify shy feeders and allow for their management before they drop condition.