All livestock does best when they are comfortable and healthy. An animal satisfies its most basic needs first. To grow, they need to be able to breathe, eat, and rest with ease. The three things we need to manage for the flock are temperature, moisture levels, and the use of the resources – specifically litter- that you are purchasing.
Temperature is the most crucial component of the turkey house in cold conditions. It is vital for turkey comfort and health, and as a side benefit, the heating of the air and then exhausting that same air allows moisture to be removed from the barn in the cold months. This is a luxury that we don’t have at any other time of the year.
Turkeys cannot regulate their body temperature well at younger ages, yet as they grow, they can better withstand changing temperatures and thrive. A good run of thumb is for birds six weeks old, for every week of increasing age you can add 1 degree to a starting number of 4 for temperature swing in which they can thrive. If the birds get sick, you should keep them from huddling. However, if they are healthy, this is a good range of temperature to manage the flock.
There are two main factors to moisture control. Litter and ventilation help manage moisture in the cold months. Producers want to keep the birds warm and dry while conserving fuel and electricity at the same time. We also want to avoid over-drying the barns that can increase the dust, which can in turn cause ecoli and air sac issues.
The first step in controlling moisture and heat loss is to make a valiant effort to seal up the barn as best as possible, especially when the birds are younger. Spray foam or plastic can be used to help seal problem areas. I would also recommend using sand to cut off a significant draft option on the outside at the end of the barn by the big doors. Sand is better than shavings or straw because it is more insulating, and the turkeys are less likely to pull it from the doors.
Many folks also will close off half of the barn and keep the birds in part of it to keep them warmer and heat less square footage in the earliest stages in finishing. This can work well as long as there is enough feed and water space for the birds. If there isn’t, there can be more variation from a lack of feed and water availably in the flock.
If birds are comfortable, they will use all the square footage of the barn. Likewise, if they are too cold, they will be inside the feet lines and will be a few bays in from the ends of the barn. This can create more disease because they are crowded and uncomfortable.
When the moisture is spread evenly throughout the barn because the birds are evenly residing throughout the space, they are doing better because they are more comfortable. The barn is also easier to keep dry as all the litter is utilized.
If the barn gets too dry, moisture can be added by cooling the barn down a little and increasing humidity. This can knock down the dust, and if desired, you can return to an ideal temperature.
Check the fans
It is also essential to have, at the very least, all your fans in working order to be able to move the appropriate CFM’s based on the weight and the comfort of the birds. Computing the required CFMs and making sure that you have the appropriate fan capacity is something that you can do with your veterinarian.
While using ventilation and heat control to keep your birds comfortable can look expensive, those added moments at the feeder really add up to dividends at the end of the flock.