Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey Processing Weekend

Thank goodness it's over.

It was a frustrating year for turkeys, and an even more frustrating weekend for selling turkeys. While we planned on having lots and lots of turkeys so that we could keep the Bourbon Reds for breeding, we ended up with only 23, and exactly 23 people on my buyers list.

At the last minute, we had people calling for turkeys, we had no more to sell. We had people show up that weren't on the sign in sheet and we had none to sell.

Our double breasted whites had a lot of casualties - drowning in the sheep tank when they were just chicks, eaten by coyotes, and other various deaths. We had a lot of losses. We ended up with only a few large birds and a lot of Bourbon Reds. Most of our turkeys ended up weighing 7.5 pounds or less, with only a half a dozen or so weighing more than that. People were disappointed.

Some folks got turned away. Some folks went home with birds too small or too large.

Though Larry reminds me that more people went away happy than went away sad, one unhappy customer pretty much ruins it for me.

Add on top that last week I had to call my restaurant and tell them we had no more eggs. And weeks before that, I had already cut off all my other egg customers. It's been a rough fall for farming.

The only thing I can say is that we improve our processes each year. We get better at raising our birds, protecting them from predators, and apparently we have to protect them from themselves (falling in the water tank!) we learn more about when to get turkey chicks and the breeds and what sizes they grow to. But still, I get frustrated when I can't get people what they want. But I have said it before, this isn't a manufacturing plant. I can't turn a dial and make the process faster, I can't change a tool and make the birds a different size. We get what we get, they grow how they grow, and with a pack of 6 coyotes living in the ridge behind our pasture, and a voracious skunk in the area AND a brazen fox who steals chickens in daylight - this was not our best year. Usually.... Mother Nature Wins. We have to learn to work with her, with our animals, and remind people that we can't make promises, we can do the best we can, and that's what we do.

In the meantime - it's time to shut down for the winter. No crops. No birds to process. No baby chicks. No baby lambs - nothing new until Spring. I'm tired, my hands are raw, my back is sore. Processing is hard work. And after a weekend like this, it's thankless work, too.