When you think of roast turkey you think Christmas, but for Susan and Shane Snowdon raising these birds is a year-round commitment.
Growing happy, healthy turkeys is a family tradition
New South Wales farmer Shane Snowdon has been working with turkeys for almost 30 years but is still learning about these large birds.
“Each new batch of turkey is different,” he said. “You need to keep on your toes, read the birds and see what they want.”
Shane and his wife Susan raise Coles Christmas RSPCA Approved turkeys and Angus cattle on their property in NSW’s beautiful Stroud Valley. They once farmed chickens before switching to turkeys in 2000.
“Turkeys are a lot more inquisitive than chickens. I much prefer turkeys to chickens,” he laughs. “I’m definitely a turkey person.”
While most Australians associate turkeys with Christmas the demand for turkey meat is not confined to the festive season and the farm’s modern sheds operate all year round.
What makes Coles’ RSPCA Approved turkeys so special?
According to Shane and Susan the secret to the perfect turkey is plenty of high-quality feed, space for the birds to roam and an exceptional standard of care. There are regular farm visits by RSPCA assessors to ensure high welfare standards are being met.
“We are specialised turkey growers,” Shane said.
After taking over the property from Shane’s parents in 1992 the couple have been constantly upgrading their facilities, replacing their old sheds with two large state-of-the-art sheds equipped with the latest feeding and drinking equipment.
Shane is particularly happy with a computer-controlled cooling system which was recently installed in the turkey sheds to keep the turkeys at a comfortable temperature during summer.
“I’m absolutely loving this new cooling system. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
“There is a big water wall at one end of the shed and a giant fan at the other. The fan pulls the air through the water wall to cool the air.”
As Shane explains farming enough birds for the Christmas rush requires long working hours and impeccable timing.
The poults (baby turkeys) are one day old when they arrive on the farm and are fed a combination of pellets and grain until they reach an optimal weight. They have plenty to occupy them, too. The RSPCA’s animal welfare standards include requirements for perches and pecking objects to stimulate activity, such as toys, hanging chains, edible items like cabbages and hanging CDs.
So what do turkey farmers eat at Christmas?
Like many Australians, Christmas at the Snowdons’ house is a big family event involving several generations and plenty of good cheer. And a well-stocked table.
“Yes, there’s always a turkey,” says Shane. “But we also serve chicken and ham. Around the table are my parents and my wife’s parents, plus our three children – they are all in their 20s now – and their partners. It’s a full house.”
And the secret to a perfectly moist and succulent bird, according to this turkey farmer, is brining, which involves soaking in a salt solution for some time. All Coles fresh turkey is sold already brined, ready for customers to simply cook.
“Some people brine their turkeys for two days,” he says. “We don’t go that far, but we do a pretty good job.”