In the Southwest where he grew up, turkey meat is a delicacy eaten mostly by the rich. Perhaps that was what caught the attention of Mr. Lamson Opeyemi, who saw the near exclusivity in the consumption of turkey as a good investment opportunity.
He seized the rare opportunity to venture into the busniess, apparently to earn income from meeting the culinary needs of the rich, most of who prefer turkey meat to chicken’s.
For most Nigerians who prefer the bird, its unique nutritional values are, perhaps, too tempting to ignore. But, for Opeyemi, the income from turkey farming remains the attraction. He has since been smiling to the bank with proceeds from each season’s sale, especially during festive periods, such as Christmas, Easter and Muslim festivals.
However, setting out for the business was not easy for Opeyemi. Apart from the start-up capital, he spent time and resources learning its rudiments. “The initial cost included getting a male and female turkey for production as well as a pen to house the birds ,” he said.
For instance, the average start-up cost for the business, besides structures is N478, 000. Also, acquiring a 200 day-old turkey, known as poults, at N350 each, translates to about N70, 000. The cost of feeding each poult to maturity is put at N2, 040 X 200 for 26 weeks (182 days) is N408, 000.
However, Opeyemi was not deterred. He has been able to recoup his investments within six months, even making profits, particularly after Christmas and New Yaer sales when demand is usually high.
Interestinly, the poultry meat from turkey, the fertilised eggs, feathers and the droppings are all marketable, according to the budding entrepreneur.
Sharing his experience in the busniess, Opeyemi said all that is required to raise turkeys is to tenderly love and care for them, especially in the first four weeks of their life span when moratlity rate of the birds is high.
According to him, the average mortality rate of turkey is six to 10 per cent . He said part of the care involves raising turkey under a roof rather than the free range system where a rearer or farmer needs one acre of fenced land to raise 200-250 adult free roaming turkeys.
Also, feeds, according to him, should be given in feeders, not on the ground. Turkeys, he said, require clean water supply all the time.
Opeyemi said if the birds are well fed, they start laying eggs from when they are about five months, though the male take a longer period of about eight months to mature.
He has peices of advice for aspiring livestock entreprenuers. First, would-be farmers must create time and be involved in nurturing the birds. This, according to him, is neccessary for the farmer to reap bountifully from the agribusiness venture.
That is not all. The innovative farmer also recommends following low-cost practices. He said to get to where he is, he followed selective mating, selection of eggs, simple incubation techniques, early care of chicks, preparation of feed mixture and health care.
He also invested his time and resources in research to ascertain the health risks, feeding regime and even market for eggs and meat from turkey.
Opeyemi explains: “Turkey rearing starts from day old, which should be kept in a brooder house under appropriate temperature for about five weeks. Then the birds will be separated into different houses, one for the males that are fast growers; the second pen/house for females, which grow slowly.”
He said the birds may stay there till maturity, which is 20 weeks before the farmer can sell them for money or leave them for production of eggs. He also said the fertilised eggs are hatched at another farmer’s hatchery on payment “You don’t need to have your own hatchery before you can produce day old turkey,” he said.
Opeyemi is not done with his recipe for being a successful turkey farmer. He admonished those wishing to venture into the business that adequate feeding of the turkey is key.
Hear him: “The feeding of turkeys is very important, as the amount of feed it takes to make one pound of meat on the fowl makes the difference. If you intend to put eight pounds of meat on a turkey in eight and half weeks, it will take 13 pounds of feed. During this period, the turkey exceeds any other fowl in growth.”
To make good money within the first year, Opeyemi suggested starting with 200 birds, made up of 112 females, 56 males and 32 extra males. The extra males are to make up for the shortfall that may arise from the mortality of the birds.
He, however, said with an investment of N600,000 in buying day olds and feeds, a farmer can make up to N500, 000 within six months.
A farmer and consultant, Mr. Gbenga Boluwajoko, said turkey business generates more income than other poultry farming.
Boluwajoko, a crop and animal farmer in Ibadan, Oyo State, said the business he started with N50, 000 has grown by more than five times.
But it has not been a savoury experience for Opeyemi, Boluwajoko and, indeed, other investors in the turkey farming. For them, the fear of disease outbreak is the beginning of wisdom. Listen to Boluwajoko: “I gave someone to help me brood 265-day old turkeys and there was a transfer of disease from a near-by farm and we lost all the animals. So, I discovered that it is better to be in charge.”
His advice: “Do it by yourself or be involved to some extent. Then go for training or buy an ebook from practical farmers if you are far from the person who will train you.”
Credit: The Nation Newspaper