Faces of the Industry: A Turkey Grower’s Story
Turkey growers are just some of the many faces of the U.S. turkey industry, tending flocks from the time birds hatch until they reach maturity. NTF member Jason Yordy walks us through his experience as a fifth-generation turkey grower and what the turkey industry means to his family.
Tell us about your operation and how you got started as a grower.
I am a fifth-generation turkey farmer in Morton, Illinois, where we produce corn, soybeans and turkeys for West Liberty Foods. My father, brother and sister all have roles within our family farm.
I always assumed after college I would return to the farm because it was in my blood. After college, I worked at Cat as an engineer for the autonomous mining truck. After a few years at Cat, our main farmhand took a job at the local John Deere store, and my dad asked me to come back to farm full-time.
As a turkey grower, what are some of your day-to-day tasks?
First, I check on the turkeys in the morning, starting with the youngest flock. During this time, I review data from TurkeyTrac, our data-tracking software, from the previous night and past week to identify any potential health challenges.
Next, my team and I walk the birds, which means we monitor the birds’ activity, check equipment and prepare for the day.
When all birds have been surveyed, we blend and grind feed for flocks that are running low and haul any feed that was created.
When those tasks are complete, we do it all over again!
What is your favorite part about being a turkey grower?
I absolutely love the challenge of raising better turkeys every flock. It’s incredibly exciting to see flock performance increase as birds mature.
Raising turkeys has also been a blessing for our family. I have two kids, Ella and Maverick, who come out and help periodically. Ella enjoys the baby birds, and Maverick loves anything to do with farming and turkeys. It’s great working alongside each other and watching them learn how to treat and respect turkeys.
I also love the people and partners in our industry. We are fortunate to travel to various turkey industry events throughout the year, and there is a strong sense of community as many of the people have been involved in turkeys for generations. It’s truly one of the best industries to be a part of.
Where do you see the turkey industry heading in the future?
I believe the turkey industry is a little behind when it comes to technology. My father is a turkey whisperer and can spot a potential performance-robbing issue faster than anyone I know. My biggest fear when I came back to the farm was how will I ever be as good as him with turkeys. Those instincts are hard to pass down through the years, and I noticed this obstacle popping up at other farms like ours.
That’s why we started TurkeyTrac. To keep up with changes in innovation and data-tracking, we created a tool that helps growers identify potential issues. Since we started TurkeyTrac, I have seen how capturing and learning from data has changed many growers’ performance in the U.S. and Canada.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen sensor technology and computers get better and more reliable. As an industry, we can now leverage powerful servers to help us process and store data. The direction of technology needs to be “Sense, Decide, React, Learn.”
I think our industry is reactive rather than proactive when it comes to live production, which could improve with technology. Automation is a direction that many industries are headed, and I believe that our industry will, too. Hopefully, we can lead that charge!
To learn about other faces of the turkey industry and how turkeys are raised in the United States, visit Raising America’s Turkeys.