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Poultry Farming
Turkey Production

Turkeys (Meleagris Gallopavo) are native to the New World. They have been regarded as traditional thanksgiving and Christmas fare since the Pilgrims hunted wild turkeys to grace their tables on the first Thanksgiving Day. Although commercial turkey production does not occur in Botswana, the consumption of turkey meat has increased over time in the past six years as epitomized by increased imports from overseas via the Republic of South Africa (RSA). Recent report (April 2005 to March 2006) estimated turkey meat consumption in Botswana to be about 536.5 tons. This represents 1.3% of total annual chicken meat. The interest in turkey rearing has increased substantially in Botswana, hence the need to prepare this manuscript for use by poultry extension agents to guide turkey hobbyists, as well as, prospective farmers on turkey management.

Turkey consumption in Botswana

All turkey meat consumed in Botswana is imported from overseas through RSA. The consumption of turkey meat has generally increased over time. Turkey meat consumption declined from 73.1 tons in 2000 to 59 tons in 2001 and thereafter increased. Turkey meat consumption increased sharply from 2003 to 2004 and an increase of 398% in turkey meat consumption was observed during this period. From 2004 to 2005, turkey consumption increased by 25%. These significant increases in consumption could be sending strong signals to prospective investors that turkey industry is probably ready for exploitation. The increased demand for turkey meat from November to December in 2005 (Figure 2) is consistent with trends in the Americas and Europe.


Traditionally, are sold at Christmas and Easter as big birds, ranging from 2.5 to over 5.0 kg in size (dressed weight). However, this requirement is gradually changing as families prefer to buy smaller one-meal birds all year round. It is, however, apparent that sales of turkey meat are high at the conclusion of the year.

Hens are marketed between 14 and 16 weeks of age. At this age hens will typically weigh from 14.7 to 17.5 pounds. Toms are often marketed between 17 and 20 weeks of age and will weigh 26.4 to 32.3 pounds. Market age is determined by the product being produced. Most integrators produce both whole bodied and further processed products.

About 70% of all turkeys grown are further processed. For this market, the industry prefers to grow toms, because their larger weight is advantageous. However, many hens are also further processed even though the unit cost is higher with the lighter weight. About 16% of all turkeys are processed for the whole body market. A larger proportion of hens are sold as whole body due to the preference for further processing the larger toms. About 14% of all turkeys produced are processed as parts. In the past, parts like wings and drums were 11 often sold at greatly reduced prices. Today, these parts are used extensively in further processing and often end up as part of a further processed product such as ground meat.