I want to keep turkeys

Saturday July 20 2019


My name is Tina. I came across an article on turkey farming and developed interest in rearing the birds. My questions are:
1. Which is the best breed to keep for meat and eggs?
2. What vaccines do I require, and what age should I offer them?
3. Is there ready market for the birds?
4. What are the main challenges farmers face?

Dear Tina
Turkey farming is one of the unique business ideas you can venture into. The easiest and least expensive way to get started with turkeys is to buy day-old chicks.

Another way is to buy turkey hens and a tom or gobbler. The incubation period is 28 days. You can choose to incubate the eggs naturally or artificially. Naturally, turkeys are good brooders and the broody hen can hatch 10-15 eggs.

Select clean eggs with good eggshell and shape for brooding for high hatchability and healthy turkey chicks. Brooding in turkey takes 0-4 weeks.

Turkey chicks need double space as compared to chicken’s, at 1.5 to 2ft per bird. Brooding day-old chicks can be done using infra-red bulbs.

You will need to set up a brooder area before the birds arrive. Line it with about an inch of wood shavings and provide a source of heat to keep the birds warm.


The brooder should be warm and dry and most importantly, have a round-design to prevent them from huddling in a corner and suffocating each other. Temperature at the floor level for the first week should be between 32 and 38°C
Thereafter, withdraw the heat source to reduce the floor temperature by 2°C each week for the next four weeks.

It takes about 3.25 kilogrammes of feed to produce one kilogramme of live turkey weight. A feeder and water container for every 25 birds is needed.

Start your turkeys on starter mash. Make sure there is plenty of starter mash in the feeders, and that the chicks have fresh, clean water at all times. Common varieties of turkeys include broad breasted bronze and broad breasted white.
By the tenth week the chicks should be ready to switch from starter mash to growers’ mash.

Include grit and continue giving it with the mash two times a week. The turkey will also need greens and other foods added to its diet.

In intensive system, greens can be fed up to 50 per cent of the total diet on dry mash basis. Fresh lucerne is first class green feed for turkeys of all ages.

Foods such as cracked maize grains and soya bean meal are also great choices. Other supplements such as vitamins and minerals should be added.

This will ensure that they stay healthy and grow up without any problems.
Turkeys are very good scavengers consuming earthworms, small insects, snails, kitchen waste and termites, all rich in protein and this can reduce the feed cost by 50 per cent.

Make sure that they have fresh water at all times and the feed is adequate. Water should be about body temperature to prevent turkeys from cold.

Turkeys don’t add fat until they are 22 weeks. It takes about 24-28 weeks to completely finish a turkey.

Answered by Dennis Kigiri, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

What causes panama disease and how can I control it if it attacks my plantation? Musa

Dear Musa
Panama disease, also known as fusarium wilt, is a serious problem of banana production. The disease not only affects “apple” bananas but also other varieties such as Gros Michel and Cavendish locally known as bogoya and can wipe out the entire crop. The disease is caused by the fusarium fungus which survives in the soil and on plant waste.

It enters the plant through root damages before spreading to the whole plant via the stem.

Signs of the disease include yellowing of leaves starting with the oldest leaves while some drool, become brown and die.
In some cases the outer leaf sheaths of the stem may split longitudinally near the soil level.

In this case, the affected plant won’t develop adequately for a mature bunch to be produced and the disease can cause total crop loss.
To control the disease, ensure there is no movement of planting materials from affected regions to other areas.

Burning and burying all diseased crop residues and practicing crop rotation ensure the fungus die. Disinfect any farm implement used for pruning banana stools.

Alternatively, plant resistant banana varieties such as GT, Prata, Manyatta, Soth and Exera.
Uproot all panama disease affected “Sukari Ndizi” stools and replace with any of the resistant varieties named above.

According to a 2014 research by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the disease is mainly cause by poor knowledge and perception among growers on the impact, infection cycle and management tactics. Lack of certified planting materials is also a challenge.

Answered by Japhet Ruto, an agronomist at Farmbiz.

I have a cow that eats a lot. I kindly need to know the recommended kilogrammes as I feed it rhodes hay, maize germ, wheat bran, sunflower, high phosphorus salt and ground maize stalks. Mathew

Dear Mathew
Cattle are fed on the basis of body size and productivity. Each day, a cow should eat between three and four per cent of its own body weight in dry matter basis (feed minus its moisture content).

This may translate to about 10-25 per cent in terms of fresh matter content (feed with about 50-60 per cent moisture content). You can approximate the cow’s weight using a weighing band. For dairy cows the ration must provide at least 16 per cent crude protein.

Your ration appears deficient on protein sources. Attempt to balance this out by substituting maize stalks (low nutritional value) with legume forage like lucerne, desmodium or vetch.
The formulated ration should constitute at least 60 per cent of a mixture of good quality grass hay and the legume.
With the ingredients at your disposal, try out the following ratios: Maize germ (eight per cent), Lucerne (18 per cent) Rhodes hay (45 per cent), wheat bran (eight per cent), sunflower meal (20 per cent) and high phosphorus salt (one per cent).
For further advice, consult your local livestock production office to advice you on other alternative feed sources available in your area.

Kimitei K. Ronald, Department of Animal Sciences - Egerton University

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