There are opportunities for hundreds of Irish farmers to become actively involved in turkey production, according to IFA Poultry Chairman Nigel Renaghan.

Approximately 1m turkeys are sold in Ireland in the run-up to Christmas, 30% of which are imported, he said.

“Irish consumers have already made it clear that they want to buy home produced turkey. This, in turn, presents an opportunity for significant numbers of Irish farmers to develop an alternative income stream.

“Many cattle and sheep farms have excellent calving and lambing sheds which lie vacant during the period September to December. These facilities can be used with very little alteration to house growing turkeys.”

Renaghan added that a margin of €10/bird can be made from turkeys.

This represents a real cash flow boost for any business. Farmers can find direct retail outlets for the turkeys they are producing. Or they can seek production agreements with existing businesses.

“IFA will provide the advice farmers need to source the birds, feed and items of equipment they need to get started. But the reality is that livestock farmers already have the husbandry skills required to rear turkeys successfully.

“We are not talking about major building renovations. Provided the basics of the building are correct, it takes very little additional equipment to meet the management requirement of turkeys. Feeders and drinkers can be easily installed for a relatively small cost.

“It is not beyond the realms of imagination for an existing livestock farmer to rear up to 1,000 turkeys for the Christmas market.”

According to Teagasc, turkeys produced on a farm fresh basis are usually aimed at the Christmas market and are processed and sold by the producer.

The starting point is to find the market and gear everything towards it. Turkeys can be grown in as little 12 weeks and for up to 24 weeks depending on the requirements at point of sale. Unlike other poultry, turkeys grow and perform well on fairly low house temperatures.