Category Archives: Animal Welfare

What does highly pathogenic bird flu mean for Iowa’s turkey farmers?

Since the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was confirmed in Minnesota in March, poultry farmers in the Midwest have been living in fear.
There has always been a risk that disease would affect our farms, so we do everything we can to prevent it. We raise our turkeys indoors so they can’t comingle with wild birds. We restrict visitors that may unknowingly bring germs inside. And we wear clean clothing and footwear in our barns.
But unfortunately, that’s not always enough to keep an outbreak from occurring.
Turkey farmers have dealt with disease outbreaks before. And sometimes, they have been serious. But none match the devastation caused by HPAI, or bird flu, as it is commonly called.

Ellworth turkeys by Aaron Putze

What’s different about bird flu?

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is concerning for several reasons.

       1. It’s spread by wild birds who show no symptoms. Because of the number of cases in the Mississippi Flyway, the migratory pattern for wild waterfowl in the Midwest, it is safe to assume that at least part of the wild waterfowl population here are infected. But there is no way to know without a blood test.
      2. There is a 21 day incubation period, during which time poultry may be infected, but do not show any signs. This is concerning because a farmer may have an infected flock and may spread it to another flock without knowing.
     3. It is highly pathogenic for poultry. After the incubation period, there are few symptoms before birds begin dying. And once they start dying, it’s a matter of days before the entire flock is affected.

This can be emotionally devastating to a farmer. Farmers put the care and well-being of their livestock at the top of their priority list. Can you imagine walking into a barn and seeing that half your flock had died overnight? It would be heartbreaking, and has been for many farmers involved.

As always, farmers are working hard to prevent the disease in their turkeys. And scientists are working overtime to figure out why the disease has become such a problem this year, when it has not been in the past. For now, the best we can do is continue to care for our turkeys as we always have, and hope for the best.

***There is NO food safety risk associated with avian influenza and only minimal human health risk. This strain of the virus has NOT infected any humans.
Iowa’s Turkey Industry Facts:
• 130 turkey farms
• Raise over 11 million turkeys every year
• Ranks 9th in US turkey production
• Each turkey adds more than $20 to Iowa’s economy.
• Total economic impact of raising and processing turkeys in Iowa is over $1.5 billion.

Turkey Farms Affected:

(turkey numbers are rounded to the nearest 1,000)
4/14/15 Buena Vista County 1 with 27,000 turkeys affected

4/24/15 Sac County 1 with 34,000 turkeys affected

4/29/15 Buena Vista County 2 with 41,000 turkeys affected

4/29/15 Buena Vista County 3 with 41,000 turkeys affected

4/30/15 Pocahontas County 1 with 17,000 turkeys affected

4/30/15 Cherokee County 1 with 45,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Buena Vista County 4 with 30,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Sac County 2 with 43,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Pocahontas County 2 with 33,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Buena Vista County 5 with 63,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Cherokee County 2 with 54,000 turkeys affected

5/4/15 Buena Vista County 6 with 34,000 turkeys affected


Total Turkeys: 458,506


Raising turkeys a perfect fit for eastern Iowa farm family

By Bethany Baratta
When Don and Pat Daufeldt started farming part-time in the ‘70s, turkeys were not a part of the plan. At that time, turkeys were just a part of their Thanksgiving dinner.

But a representative from Louis Rich contacted the Daufeldts and noted their location in relation to their nearby processing plant, which is now West Liberty Foods, just a mile from their farm.

“They picked here because it was close to the plant where they were going to use the birds versus hauling them,” Pat said.

Having no background in the industry, Don, who had worked at Eastern Iowa Light and Power for 16 years, said the opportunity was appealing because it would give him an opportunity to be home more with his family.

The first poults arrived at the family’s farm on Jan. 30, 1988.

Now, the turkey farm has allowed their three sons and their families the opportunity to grow turkeys. Sons Brent and Bryan started a turkey farm of their own and raise approximately 60,000 turkeys per year. Brad works with his parents on the family’s farm, where they raise 110,000 turkeys per year.

The sons had their first experiences on the turkey farm doing chores and helping load the turkeys when it was time for the birds to make their way to the processing plant.

The family also had the unique experience of raising turkeys to be presented to President George H.W. Bush to be pardoned before Thanksgiving in 1991.

“We separated 25 of them into an old lean-to,” Brad recalls. “We were hand feeding them and trying to get them tame.”

The routine included frequent baths in soap and water and walks around the farm with a twine leash.

Eventually, two toms were picked for the flight to Washington, D.C., to be pardoned by the president. After pardoning, the turkeys were sent to a nearby farm to live.

Daufeldt family (1)
Brad Daufeldt, left, his wife, Audra, and their two sons, Wesley and Dane, raise turkeys with Brad’s parents, Pat, second from right, and Don. Brad said that after college he was excited to return to the family’s farm, where his parents started raising turkeys in the late 1980s. Photo by Gary Fandel


The next generation
The experiences raising turkeys on the farm stuck with Brad.

While other students in his classes at the University of Iowa were deciding what to do after college, he had a plan.

“They (Don and Pat) encouraged us to at least come back even though it has its challenges and growing pains,” Brad said.

The family said they enjoy the challenges associated with turkey farming and learning something new with each new flock, including the 19,500 poults that arrived to the farm recently from a hatchery in Ohio. Each poult arrives to the farm weighing a mere 4 grams.
“I think it’s the challenge (that keeps us going),” Pat said. “Every flock is different. So you always try to have this flock do better than the last.”

While automatic feed and watering systems have increased the farm’s efficiency, there’s one thing, they say, that technology can’t replace. “I think the one thing you cannot upgrade is walking through the barns every day and doing chores,” Don said.

This includes ensuring that feed and watering systems are in proper working order, adjusting the temperature inside the barns and checking for mortalities.

Loading the 40 to 43 pound birds onto semis for processing is still a process, the family says. Loading the birds is done in the span of two days now. When the family first started, it took 18 semis and a week to get every bird to the plant.

The farm has increased its energy efficiency by replacing its high pressure sodium light bulbs in their barns with fluorescents. “We cut our electricity almost in half by just going to the different lights,” Don said.

Photo by Gary Fandel


Still learning
And though the family has been in the business for more than 25 years, they haven’t stopped learning, they said.

After the family lost half of its flock to Newcastle disease about two and a half years ago, the family is on constant alert. With the processing plant nearby, they know their flock is at higher risk of catching a disease with every truck and trailer that drives by their farm and with every bird that flies onto the farm.

Brad has learned more about diseases through industry-sponsored educational sessions. He’s able to learn more about turkey nutrition as well.

Indeed, the family has witnessed challenges in the industry: the fluctuation of grain and turkey prices, government regulations and labor shortages.
Good neighbors
In 2012, the family was recognized as recipients of the Gary Wergin Good Farm Neighbor award. The award, sponsored by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, recognizes Iowa livestock farmers who take pride in caring for the environment, their livestock and being good neighbors.

And while consumers won’t find turkeys from the Daufeldts’ farm on their dinner table at Thanksgiving this year, Don says the family is proud of its work in the industry.

“When I first started this back in 1987, the last thing we ever thought about was that we would be part owners of a company like West Liberty Foods and supplying the nation with turkey.”

*Reprinted with permission for the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman.

Solar Panels are Standout Performers on Livestock Farms

By Bethany Baratta

These days, farmer Mike Bates has an extra appreciation for the sun. Not just because it’s helping to grow his crops, but now it’s also helping to power his livestock farm.

Interested in lowering his electricity costs, Washington County Farm Bureau member Mike Bates looked into installing solar panels on his turkey farm.

“For me to take better care of my livestock, I needed to keep them cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter and have better lighting. So I continued to need more electricity,” Bates said.

Ankeny-based CB Solar installed the 100 kW solar array on Bates’ turkey farm one year ago in June. The panels were attached to Bates’ turkey barns. solar turkeys


“I already had the existing buildings at the right angle to the sun to take advantage of all of that energy from the sun. So it was just a fit,” he said.

The panels are converting the sun’s energy to electricity. Through a converter, that then powers the ventilation systems in his turkey barns, feeders, lights and waterers, and also his grain dryer.

Keeping the fans running

“Now, with the solar panels, I feel really comfortable that I can have a lot of fans running to keep those birds comfortable during the heat of the summer,” he said.

Bates also added a solar array to his machine shop, which cuts down on electrical costs on his farmstead.

After crunching the numbers, Washington hog farmer Mike Norman found a solar array to be a great fit for his farm.

Installed last winter, Norman’s solar array converts the sun’s rays to electricity through an adapter. It’s then used to power the feeding system, waterers, ventilation system and lights on his feeder-to-finish hog farm.

“It’s good for the environment and it’s a way we can become self-sufficient,” Norman said.

Bates said he has had no problems with his solar array. It’s able to withstand ping pong ball-sized hail and winds up to 60 miles per hour, he said. And if it rains? That just cleans the panels, he said. Norman said the accumulated snow was tough on the solar panels because the cold weather didn’t allow the solar panels to completely thaw quickly. However, this summer is making up for that.

“We’ve been extremely pleased with what their output has been this summer,” Norman said.

Bates and Norman both worked with Alliant Energy to take advantage of rebates and credits to be applied to their solar projects. Bates said he’ll have the entire project paid for in September—just one year and three months after it was installed. Bates said that might not be the case for every farm in Iowa; size of the farm and project funding is unique for every farm.Mike by solar roof panels

Through Alliant Energy, Bates and Norman are able to bank the extra electricity they generate during the summer for use during the winter. During the month of June, Bates saved $3,000 on electricity. Norman said his solar array has cut his electric bill by 40 to 50 percent.

As they look to the future of their farms, Bates and Norman said that includes more solar projects.

Bates is looking at projects that convert the sun into heat for his turkey barns. Norman said he’ll continue to add solar panels to his new barns.

“Washington County is the No. 1 solar county in the state of Iowa,” Norman said. “It’s an environmentally good thing we can do.”

Bates said using solar energy just makes sense.

“It’s exciting. It’s so simple. You let the sun shine and have no maintenance and no moving parts,” he said. “In my mind, every turkey building, every hog building in the state of Iowa needs a solar panel on top of it because why wouldn’t you?”


Reprinted with permission from the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman.

Winter Storm Ion on the Farm

Sun. Feb 24, 1935

“This afternoon the weather began to change, a light mist was falling and this later changed to a snow.  The storm increased and turned into a regular blizzard.  Our turkeys are always out in the open during all kinds of weather and when this storm became very severe we discussed the necessity of shelter for them.  D.L. insisted that they had always taken care of themselves and that they would be in good shape and come thru it fine, but late in the evening we found that their feathers were becoming loaded with wet snow and ice and the heads covered with ice.  It seemed that the best thing would be to get them in the big barn and the only way to do this was carry them in.  We would make several trips thru the deep snow and the blizzard, then after coming to the house to melt the snow from our eyes and faces we would make several trips again.  In this way we finally had all of the flock under cover.  They are very hardy and very independent birds, but you could see that they appreciated the shelter of the big barn.  Had we known the storm would be so severe, we could have driven them inside early in the afternoon.”

Elmer G. Powers, Quietdale Farm, Boone County, Iowa

The Farm Diary of Elmer G. Powers, 1931-1936

Co-Edited by H. Roger Grant and L. Edward Purcell


This week, Winter Storm Ion brought bitter cold temperatures to Iowa.  How cold?  Actual temperature Sunday night was -12⁰F and wind chills reached -40 to -50⁰F.

turkey barn family farm Winter Storm Ion

 Although these cold temperatures are extreme, Iowa faces some tough weather every year.  Cold, snow, and ice are three of the reasons that Iowa’s turkey farmers raise their turkeys inside warm, climate controlled buildings.

Even during the coldest winter days, the turkeys on Iowa’s turkey farms will have no idea what the weather is like outside.  Inside their barns, they will have 24 hours access to food and clean water and be immune to the stress that cold weather could cause their bodies.



Caring for Turkeys in Winter Cold

Turkeys require care in all kinds of weather, even during Winter Storm Ion.  And Iowa’s turkey farmers are dedicated to animal welfare.

In this short video, the Iowa Turkey Federation’s president, Noel Thompson, explains how Iowa’s turkey farmers keep birds comfortable in the cold.




(Thanks to our friends at the Iowa Food and Family Project for providing the video.)

A Few Words about Free Birds

free birdsOn November 1, 2013 the animated children’s movie Free Birds comes to theatres.

“Two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences and team up to travel back in time to change the course of history – and get turkey off the holiday menu for good.” 

Although Free Birds is billed as a comedy, could Hollywood have an agenda to reduce turkey consumption this Thanksgiving?

The Iowa Turkey Federation does not believe that this movie will distract from the traditions of this truly American holiday, but there are a few things to consider and share with others:

  1. Pizza instead of Turkey?

Free Birds has partnered with Chuck E. Cheese and the characters in the movie suggest eating pizza at Thanksgiving instead of turkey.

We know that turkey is a lean protein and part of a healthy diet.  Is encouraging kids to eat calorie-laden pizza really a good idea instead of lean turkey at the Family Thanksgiving Dinner Table?

  1.  The Daily Pardon from the Turkey Freedom Front (and Tofurkey)

Free Birds has recently partnered with FarmSanctuary and Tofurkey to promote “pardoning” turkeys. 

“Each pardon helps Farm Sanctuary rescue and care for neglected, abused or injured turkeys and other farm animals at one of the organization’s three shelters, which are located near Watkins Glen, N.Y., Orland, CA., and Los Angeles.”

We agree that turkeys should not be neglected, abused or injured, but we disagree with the organization’s vegetarian agenda.   Compassion isn’t exclusive among vegetarians.  Turkeys in the United States are raised in climate-controlled barns, away from predators and extreme weather conditions.  Turkey farmers dedicate days, nights, weekends and holidays to caring for their animals.  We safeguard against animal suffering, insisting on humane handling from farm to processing plant.

            3.  Why serve turkey at Thanksgiving anyway?

Turkey is truly America’s meat.  Fossils have proven that wild turkeys have been part of North America for more than 10 million years! 

According to Plimoth Plantation

“The Colonists and the Natives often ate wild turkey, although it is not specifically mentioned in Edward Winslow’s eyewitness account of the First Thanksgiving. He said that four men went hunting and brought back large amounts of fowl – with waterfowl like ducks and geese being most likely from such a bountiful shoot. Hunters could position themselves in marsh grass and fire at scores of birds floating on the water. Yet Governor Bradford’s description of the Pilgrims’ first autumn in Plymouth makes it clear, “there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.” The fowl served at the First Thanksgiving could have been turkeys, ducks, geese, and swan. Early Plymouth writings also mention eating eagle and crane at other times.  Pumpkins and squashes were native to New England, and like the turkey, were introduced to Europe during the 1500s where they gained widespread acceptance.”