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Turkeys part of Moser's diversified farm

By Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Date Modified: 12/06/2012 2:36 PM

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LESTER, Iowa — Caleb Moser never doubted that he'd return to the family farm. There is plenty of work to do.

His parents, Wes and Esther Moser, along with his older brother Alex have more than 900 ewes and plan to expand. Alex and Caleb also head up an award winning shearing crew.

In addition to the sheep flock, the Moser family has a thriving broiler chicken business. When the baby chicks are finished using the brooding room, it's time to focus on turkeys. In preparation of their arrival, Caleb thoroughly power washes the room, striving to eliminate any disease threats.

Turkey poults were ordered Stover Hatchery in Missouri and the day-old broad-breasted white poults were mailed to the farm on July 16.

The breed was chosen for several reasons, said Moser. Five years into raising turkeys. the bigger-breasted bird has proven to be customers' favorite.

Hen turkeys usually dress out at 16 to 25 pounds while the toms will be as heavy as 35 to 40 pounds.

During the first month, poults are kept warm under heat lamps in an environment kept scrupulously clean. They are old enough to be outdoors in late August. They are sheltered on sheep pasture. For rotational purposes, electric netting is used to ensure fresh pastures.

Once the garden season ends, the turkeys glean in the garden, sweet corn patch, nearby soybean field and windbreak. A balanced grain ration is always available.

With a bit of training, the turkeys pretty much know where they are heading each morning and night. Moser uses the same training time to work his Border Collie Jed. The Brown Collie with white markings benefits from working with the turkey flock. He will soon be as dependable as Moser's other trained Border Collies.

Their days are spent outdoors and their nights back in the barn. It's a must, said Moser, because of predators. In years past, Great Horned Owls have been a threat.

Turkey harvesting is done right on the farm just days before Thanksgiving. Turkeys can be picked up fresh or frozen, whichever the customer decides. Most of the turkeys are raised and sold from orders taken in early spring.