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All over the World, there are more than two dozens of breeds of turkey. In the United States alone, 20 breeds are reported to the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (IDA-IS) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which manages and takes record of animal genetic resources programme.
But in this post, we’ll focus on 7 turkey breeds in Nigeria you can rear which would fetch you lot of money within your community or on a large scale.
Breeds of Turkey in Nigeria
- Standard Bronze Turkey
- Beltsville Small White
- Slate Turkey
- The Black turkey
- The Royal Palm Turkey
- Bourbon Red
Beltsville Small White
In the early 30s in the United States turkeys had narrow breasts with little meat. Hence, this breed was created to meet consumers’ demands. It was also discovered that 87% of consumers wanted birds that are fleshy, well prepared and weighing between 8 and 15 pounds.
Hence, a breeding program began between 1934-1941 at the U.S. Department of Agriculture research centre at Beltsville, Maryland, to develop a breed that would fit consumer-specific needs.
This breed was from a genetic background that includes Narragansett, White Austrian, White Holland, Wild Turkey, and Bronze.
It came into use in the 1940s and was gained the recognition of the American Poultry Association in 1951.
The popularity of this breed peaked in the mid-50s and more so it contributed to the creation of other strains small and medium white turkeys.
The success of the Small White turkey was for a short period and nearly extinct in the 1970’s. Because despite the fact that it was accepted by individual consumers, commercial processors and restaurants were not satisfied with it.
They wanted something a lot bigger from which they could cut out more portions and make extra money.
Thus, the Broad Breasted White (or Large White) turkey took over the demand for Beltsville breed because when slaughtered at a tender age, this turkey fits perfectly into processors choice for a small turkey with the ability to grow significantly heavier for commercial sales.
By the mid-60s, this new Broad Breasted White breed had overshadowed the turkey market but still the Beltsville Small White had an edge over it.
Characteristics of the Beltsville Small White
- Beltsville have good reproductive qualities
- Ability to mate naturally.
- They could be selected, raised, and maintained by small-scale producers.
- Unlike the Broad Breasted White turkeys that require artificial insemination for reproduction.
- Young Beltsville turkey hens weigh about 10 pounds while the young toms weigh 17 pounds.
- Feathers are white coloured, and the head is red to bluish-white.
- It has dark brown eyes, black beard, the beak is horn coloured. The shanks and toes are pinkish white.
Presently, the Beltsville Small White is a rare breed and mostly available with a few exhibition breeders. There is a flock dedicated for research at the Iowa State University; though, there’s a restriction on public access to this flock.
In recent times, there has been a reawakening of interest in this breed. In the US and Canada there are deliberate efforts to track and preserve any of this breed remaining in both the.
The Black turkey
The black turkey is one of the popular turkey breeds in Nigeria This breed originates from Europe as a direct offspring of the Mexican turkeys breed brought home with voyagers in the 1500s.
These black coloured turkeys soon became famous in Spain and known as “Black Spanish”, and in England, mainly in the Norfolk region as “Norfolk Blacks.”
Being identified for its meat production capacity for over two centuries, the Black Spanish turkey came back to the Americas with early European colonizers.
Upon arrival, they were crossed with the Eastern wild turkeys, which later became the background for the Black turkey specie in America.
This breed was profitable commercially for the earlier part of the 20th century but not as common as the White Holland, Bronze, Bourbon Red, and Narragansett species.
The American Poultry Association gave formal recognition to the Black variety was in 1874.
Characteristics of Black Turkey
- It has lustrous feathers, metallic black with a greenish sheen on top and a dull black under colour.
- The poults will usually have white or bronze in their plumage but moult into mature feathers.
- The beak is black coloured with red wattle, that can change to bluish-white. The shanks and toes are pink in adults.
- The eye is dark brown in colour.
- Their skin is usually white colour, as common in all turkey species, but some writers talk of a yellow trace on the skin that is not noticeable in other breeds.
- It is assumed to be a factor influenced by diet type, because turkeys on the free range with access to corn and green plants are likely to have a very yellow cast to their skin.
- The average weight is 14 pounds for young hens and 23 pounds for young toms. Thus making the Blacks a little smaller than the Bronze.
Since the Black has been neglected for its production features for years, many birds may be smaller than the average breed size.
A thorough selection for the ability to mate naturally, good health, and production traits will, however, return this breed to its earlier stature.
Though known as the Black turkey, the expressions “Black Spanish” and “Norfolk Black” are still used to refer to this breed in the United States.
This variety needs more breeders. As interest begin to pick up in its ability to survive, genetic fitness, and better flavour when prepared, it has shaped a growing market niche.
This friendly and beautiful bird can improve back to its early 20th-century standing if helped by a few more preservation-minded poultry producers.
Standard Bronze Turkey
The Standard Bronze turkey is a crossbreed between the domestic turkeys (carried by European colonists to the Americas) and the eastern wild turkeys they discovered when they arrived. It has been a common turkey breed in American history.
Bronze-type turkeys were discovered in the late 1700s, however, the name “Bronze” was not given until the 1830s.
This crossbreed resulted in turkeys that were bigger and more energetic than the regular European birds, and they were much domesticated than the wild turkeys.
As such, it’s instructive to say that the Bronze Broad Breasted Turkey is considered to be the largest and heaviest of the turkey breeds there is in the world today.
For meat production, Bronze Broad Breasted Turkey should be your choice because it also has an excellent feed to meat conversion rate.
Its coppery-bronze coloured metallic gleam, (where its name was gotten) was a part of the heritage from its wild lineages.
All through the 1800s, breeders regularized the Bronze specie, and random crosses were made back to the wild turkey.
Then in 1874, the Bronze turkey was acknowledged by the American Poultry Association. Over the past years, the status of this variety has changed radically.
In the early 1900s, a wider breasted Bronze turkey was presented from England into Canada, then into the northwestern United States. These breed were crossed with US stocks that grew faster and larger.
The result of this is the Broad Breasted Bronze, and it turned out to be the choice variety for commercial use.
An extra selection process enhanced meat production, mostly that of growth rate, breast meat, and other performance abilities.
Howbeit, a change in conformation (specifically the reduced length of the legs and the keel) almost eradicated their capability to naturally mate.
Due to this, majority of the Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys have been undergoing artificial insemination since the 1960s.
The Broad Breasted Bronze was replaced by the Broad Breasted White turkey in the 1960s.
This is because the white-feathered breed produced an attractive-looking carcass hence, the processors were more interested in it.
Presently, the Broad Breasted Bronze variety is no longer in use by the turkey industry, however, it is promoted for periodic, small-scale production.
Not until the early years in the 21st century, the Bronze was not being used for commercial production for years until interest in the survivability, biological fitness, and quality flavor caught consumer interest and built a growing market forte.
The Bronze variety is splendid and grand in appearance. The average weight for young hens is 16 pounds, and young toms is 25 pounds.
Since the Standard Bronze has not been picked for its production qualities, and weight gain for years; this breed may be smaller than the standard.
A proper selection for the ability to mate naturally, good health, and production attributes will definitely bring this breed back to its former physique.
These turkeys also require conservation because just a few hatcheries preserve breeding flocks, and the ones available are reducing in quantity.
The Royal Palm Turkey
Here is another turkey breed called the Royal Palm. It is an outstandingly small-sized and eye-catching turkey breed, very beautiful.
In the 1920s, the first set of birds to have the Palm colour pattern in America were in a mixed flock of Bronze, Narragansett, Wild turkeys, and Black, and were found on the farm of Enoch Carson of Lake Worth, Florida.
Since then, a further selection has been done to even out the regularity of color and other important features.
According to an anonymous breeder who wrote to Feathered World magazine in 1931, “Turkeys of this type of colouration do crop up by chance where different colour varieties are crossed . . . but it takes years to perfect their markings.”
In 1971, this breed was formally accepted by the American Poultry Association. It is comparable to a European specie known as the Crollwitz, Black-laced White, or Pied has popularly known since the 1700s.
Characteristics of the Royal Palm turkeys
1) The Royal Palm turkeys are white in colour with a sharply divergent, metallic black edging on the feathers.
2) It has a black saddle that gives a sharp disparity against the white base colour of the body feathers.
3) Though the tail is pure white, each feather has a black band and a white edge.
4) The coverts are white with a black band, while the wings are white with a slim edge of black that cut across each feather.
5) The breast is of white colour with the uncovered part of each feather ending in a band of black to give a black and white contrast just like fish scales.
6) They have red to bluish whiteheads, light brown eyes, a light hornbeak, deep pink shanks and toes, red to bluish white throat and wattles with black beards.
7) They are outstanding scavengers, careful, energetic, and good at flying. The average weights are 10 pounds for young hens and 16 pounds for young toms.
8) They have not been decisively selected for either growth rate or stature size but are being used mainly for the exhibition.
9) The Royal Palm does not have the commercial capacity of the other species but its roles on small farms, in domestic meat production, and the ability to regulate insect pests are of great value.
This turkey breed originated in Kentucky’s Bluegrass in the late 1800’s. It was crossbred between Buff, Holland turkeys and Bronze.
They have a brownish to dark red plumage with white flight and tail feathers.
They have soft red bars on their tail feathers crossing them near the end. Their body feathers on the toms may be bordered in black colour.
Their neck and breast feathers are both chestnut mahogany, and the under colour feathers are light buff to almost white. The beak is light horn at the tip and dark at the base.
The throat wattle is red, though can change to bluish-white, shanks and toes are pink, and the beard is black.
The Average weights for Bourbon Reds are 14 pounds for young hens and 23 pounds for young toms.
Buff turkeys were the primary foundation for this specie. After some years of selection, Mr. Barbee succeeded in steadily producing sizeable dark red turkeys with white wing and main tail feathers. He named them “Bourbon Butternuts.”
Probably the name was not appealing to consumers, because the birds attracted no significant attention. He later renamed them “Bourbon Reds”.
Bourbon represented his home county while the red stands for the rich, chestnut colour of the plumage. The change of name worked as significant sales were recorded after that.
The Bourbon Red breed was in 1909 acknowledged by the American Poultry Association. It was purposely selected and endorsed for value traits, as well as a production-type confirmation with a richly flavoured meat and heavy breast.
The first breeders of these Bourbon Red also said that their birds would grow as big as any Mammoth Bronze, a predecessor to the Broad Breasted Bronze.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Bourbon Red was a significant commercial breed. Later, its popularity reduced because it was not able to contend with the broad-breasted varieties.
But since 2002, there have been a renewed interest in the superior flavor, survivability, and biological fitness, of the Bourbon Red and has attracted consumer interest and formed a growing market forte.
A careful selection for capacity to mate naturally, good health, and product features will return this breed to its earlier stature. This breed is attractive for either display or for the backyard.
They are energetic scavengers, who would possibly do better in a pasture production system, either as purebreds or when crossed with white turkeys.
Regrettably, there is no current information on feed conversion, growth rate, or egg production for any of the rare varieties.
There is, therefore, an urgent need for a record of performance information so that this breed can be better promoted for use in sustainable agriculture in addition to backyard breeding.
This turkey breed was named for Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, where the species was developed. It comes from turkeys and the domestic turkeys (probably Norfolk Blacks) brought to America by European and English colonists in the 1600’s.
Having been improved upon and standardized to obtain maximum production capacity, the Narragansett became the basis of the turkey industry in New England.
In 1872 an account has it that, it was common to find flocks of one to two hundred birds flocking together. They ranged for grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects and were given little extra feed.
Poultry farmers rearing these turkeys were aware of the importance of proper genetic selection and thus raised hens that were 12-16 pounds and young toms that weighed between 22-28 pounds.
The Narragansett was not as common as the Bronze variety, rather it was generally known in the mid-Atlantic States and the Midwest and as well as in New England.
However, people were no longer interested in the Narragansett in the early 1900s as the Standard Bronze became popular.
Not until the early 21st century, it was not used for commercial production for many years till a new interest in the survivability, biological fitness, and superior flavour the caught the interest of consumers and shaped a growing market niche.
Whitewing bars are the result of a genetic mutation which removes the bronze colouration and is not known outside the United States.
Since the Narragansett has not been chosen for production features, selection for the ability to mate naturally, production attributes, and good health, will return this specie to its previous stature.
They have conventionally been known for their good maternal abilities, calm disposition, excellent meat quality, egg production, and early maturation. About 5 decades ago, they were well-considered for their production abilities.
This remarkable variety, exclusive to North America, deserves an appraisal for production in sustainable agriculture structures. The Narragansett turkey breed would make a valuable addition to the family farm.
Whatever your choice is turkey farming is one of the greatest ways to generate income all over the World. As such, the above list of turkey breeds in Nigeria and around the World guide you in doing your feasibility study before investing in turkey rearing business.