Good Shepard Turkey Ranch

The Good Shepard Turkey Ranch is located near Lindsborg, Kansas, in McPherson County. Come with Jim Shroyer as he introduces the owner and operator of the Good Shepard Turkey Ranch, Frank Reese. We’ll learn about the types of turkeys Frank raises, how he markets 10,000 a year and where all they are sent to across the nation. Join us at the Good Shepard Turkey Ranch.

(Jim) Good morning folks, welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer your host and we’re near Lindsborg, Kansas, on the Good Shepard Turkey Ranch as you can see. And we’re gonna be talking with Frank Reese the owner and we’re just gonna be talking turkey, sorry for that pun. But stay with us,
we’ll be right back.

Closed Captioning brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Jim) Good morning folks, I’m Jim Shroyer your host of That’s My Farm. And you know we’re in luck today because we’re on the Good Shepard Turkey Ranch near Lindsborg, Kansas, in McPherson County. And we have Frank Reese with us, the owner. And it’s kind of appropriate that we’re talking turkey here because we have Big Blue Stem which another name for it is Turkey Foot. (Frank) Yep. (Jim) And so it’s kind of appropriate. So, Frank this has been a big deal in your family for a long time. So, kind of give us a history of how the family and you got stated in this business. (Frank) OK. My family has been here in Kansas since… my Great Grandparents came out here right after the Civil War, so we’ve been here in Kansas for a long time. I call myself a fourth generation Kansas farmer. And so, I’ve always had poultry. I was one of the younger kids in our family. I got sent to the barn to take care of the turkeys and the chickens and just so happened I fell in love with them. (Jim) You had a 4H project too. (Frank) And then I was in 4H, we all showed cattle and hogs and then I insisted that if I was gonna take care of poultry I was gonna show poultry. So, I showed poultry for ten years, all through grade school and high school and even my first year in college. And did very well. Showing poultry, won a lot of championships. Showed at the State Fair for many years. Got to go to the American Royal back then. I was Kansas State Turkey Champion for the state. (Jim) Not everybody can say that, with a straight face. Go ahead, I’m sorry. (Frank) No, that’s alright. But as a result of that I learned to understand how to breed and take care of what we call Sandy bred or purebred poultry. Cause that’s what the shows were all about back then. And I got to know what I considered some of the very great breeders of Sandy bred poultry and turkey breeders. There used to be some really fantastic Sandy bred turkey farmers in Kansas at one time. (Jim) But now? (Frank) Now there’s none. (Jim) Just you. (Frank) This is it. (Jim) So, you’re also a poultry judge as well right? (Frank) Yes. One of the things that was important to me years ago is I am a life member of the American Poultry Association. I went and took my judging license and got certified by the American Poultry Association as a turkey judge. I’m the only one left that I know of, that is certified to judge turkeys. (Jim) Well Frank, thanks for that little introduction here. We’ve got to take a break here. So, stay with us. And you folks at home stay with us, we’ll be right back to talk more with Frank and the Good Shepard Turkey Ranch.

(Jim) Welcome back folks to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer your host. We’re on the Good Shepard Turkey Ranch in Lindsborg or near Lindsborg anyway and we’re talking to Frank Reese the owner. Frank, I noticed that there are a lot of different turkeys here. I mean there are a lot of turkeys here but we’ve got several types, different types. So can you go through the different breeds that you have here. (Frank) The number one turkey that most people think of if they think of a turkey that you see on a plate or a napkin or if you’ve asked a child to draw a turkey, 99 percent of the time they’re going to draw what we call the Bronze turkey. (Jim) And they’re related to the Rio Grande somehow? (Frank) Well if you follow the history yes, the color pattern, that particular pattern that is on the Bronze turkey, the most similar relative in the wild would be the Rio Grande or the sub species called the Gould, which is a mountain desert turkey. (Jim) OK, sorry I got you distracted there. (Frank) That’s OK. (Jim) So we have the Bronze, coming right up to us here. (Frank) Yeah, the Bronze turkey is the grandfather of all domesticated turkeys. (Jim) OK. (Frank) All other domesticated turkeys are descendants out of the Bronze. They carry the genetics to make everything else. Now, back in 1873 or 1874 when the American Poultry Association was formed there was five varieties of turkeys that were accepted and being produced here in America. (Jim) As separate breeds? (Frank) Well, they’re not even breeds. They’re called varieties. (Jim) Varieties OK. (Frank) Believe it or not there’s only one breed of turkey, this turkey. (Jim) Right, OK. (Frank) And within that you have color variations that become varieties and so of those five original ones I have four of them here on my farm. Which is the White Holland, which is the pure white turkey, the Black, which is a solid black turkey. And then the Bronze which is the Narragansett, which is the grayer, slate colored turkey around here. And then the other one is a Slate. There is a Slate turkey. I don’t keep that variation. I have two other farms that are keeping… they’re a solid grey turkey. Those are the five original, the Bronze, the Narragansett, White Holland, Slate and Black. Now since then in about 1890 they produced what they called the Bourbon Red turkey. (Jim) OK. (Frank) Which I do have some but I don’t have any in this pasture right here. And then there are two more the Royal Palm and the Beltsville Small White. Those are the eight turkey varieties that are accepted by the American Poultry Association as being Sandy bred. And what that means is if you take a Bronze turkey and breed it to a Bronze turkey, for the next 200 years you’re gonna get Bronze. (Jim) Right. (Frank) That’s that genetic pattern. (Jim) Well Frank, thanks for that introduction to the different varieties of turkeys. And don’t go anywhere. And you folks at home don’t go any where, we’ll be right back on the Good Shepard Turkey Ranch.

(Jim) Welcome back folks to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer, your host. And with us we have Frank Reese and he’s the owner of Good Shepard Turkey Ranch here near Lindsborg and we talked a little bit about how you got started and how long you’ve been here and just about the different breeds, but what about what do you feed ’em, rate of gain, and how long from the time they hatch to the time they go to market? So talk to us a little bit about that Frank. (Frank) OK. These standard bred turkeys take twice as long to grow as the modern industrial turkey. The growth time on these turkeys is the old traditional time which is 24 to 28 weeks, is the time in which all my turkeys are processed. So the tradition is, and this applies to the male turkeys, to the toms, is a pound a week. So a 24 weeks my toms live weight should weigh 24 pounds. Hens are gonna be not quite half, but almost half. The hens live weight should be around 16 pounds in 24 weeks. (Jim) OK. I’m sorry to interrupt but what about… so, we’re thinking here turkey, the big market obviously is Thanksgiving time. So, you have to back up from… tell me a little bit about that process. (Frank) Yes, I have to hatch all my turkeys by May 15th. Since I do keep all my own breeders. I do all my own hatching and I have my own hatchery. You have to get the turkey hatched and on the ground and have 24 weeks until your processing date. Plus that processing date has got to allow you to have at least two weeks before Thanksgiving. Preferably 21 days. (Jim) OK. (Frank) Because I sell my turkeys fresh not frozen to the market that I have, we have to have that time to get them to market, which usually we process our turkeys about either the first week or the first weekend of November. And that still allows us enough time. Now this year it’s Nov. 9th that we will load all the turkeys here on the farm. They’ll be processed on the 10th. (Jim) OK, so let’s talk about rate of gain. What feed to meat ratio, what are we talking here on how many pounds of feed do you have to feed and what kind per pound of gain? (Frank) These old Sandy bred turkeys it take about three, three and a half pounds of feed to get a pound of meat. So, it’s about a 3.5 to 1 to get a pound of meat, as compared to the modern, industrial turkey which is about 2.5 to 1, so it does take more feed to get a pound of meat in my turkeys. And that’s part of the reason why they are a little more expensive, plus you got to feed ’em twice as long. (Jim) Twice as long. (Frank) Yeah, cause the modern industrial turkey they can get a 20 pound turkey in 12 weeks. It would take me 24. (Jim) OK. Frank don’t go away. You folks at home, don’t go away. We’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.

(Jim) Welcome back folks to That’s My Farm. We’re here on the Good Shepard Turkey Ranch near Lindsborg with Frank Reese. So, not only do you sell live turkeys, you’ve also got chickens, you’ve got geese, and you’ve got a few llamas, but that’s something different, geese and you’ve got Marissa, the jersey cow here. But tell us a little bit about your other preservation, cause you’re doing the same thing with geese and chickens as well, correct? (Frank) Yes. The geese that I have back here are Embden and Buffs and plus there’s a few cross breeds, but the majority of them are Embdens, or what they call American Buff. They’re for the Christmas market. (Jim) OK. These geese I mean will be processed in December and will be sold mostly in New York, again. (Jim) And you were talking earlier, Thanksgiving is kind of a traditional turkey and we’ve kind of lost the goose, you know that used to be the Christmas goose, Charles Dickens, the whole thing with that. So, do you see that coming back? (Frank) I don’t necessarily see it coming back, but there still is enough tradition amongst some groups of people, probably more on the east coast. (Jim) That’s right. (Frank) Who still want a Christmas goose. And so… (Jim) And will you sell these live? (Frank) No, they’ll be dressed and ready for the oven. They’ll be processed, packaged and then they’ll go up to Kansas City again. (Jim) Uh huh. (Frank) Where they will fill the orders for Heritage Foods. (Jim) And you also sell a ground turkey, ground chicken. (Frank) You know, that’s one of the important things, is if you’re going to do this, if you’re going to any type of meat production, when it comes to poultry you better have value added products. Because if you send… let’s say you send a hundred turkeys to be processed and we have to sell whole turkeys, so by the USDA they have to be perfect. They can’t have tears or blemishes or anything to be packaged as a whole bird. So, if you send a hundred turkeys 20 of them won’t make it. (Jim) Right. (Frank) But you’ve invested all that feed, time and money into that meat, but you can’t sell it as a whole bird. So, you’ve got to have someplace for it to go. So, we developed a market for our ground turkey. But we also make turkey bacon, we do a broiled turkey breast, we do turkey sausage in different flavors and we’ve even had a turkey jerky. (Jim) I’ll be darn. (Frank) We have a turkey dog meat which are… and we’ve had to do the same thing with chickens. And what has happened… (Jim) That’s probably helped the bottom line a little bit. (Frank) Oh we had to or we wouldn’t have made it. (Jim) Frank, thanks a lot here. Don’t go away we’ll be right back and you folks at home stay with us we’ll be right back.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. With us we have Frank Reese of the Good Shepard Turkey Ranch near Lindsborg. And rank, we’ve talked a little bit about how you got going in feeding and that sort of thing, the different breeds. You’ve kind of got a niche market here. This obviously takes longer to get to market, so how do you market 10,000 turkeys? (Frank) I’ve been very lucky. In 2001, I entered a contest; I was asked to enter. The New York Times was looking for the best tasting turkey in America and Marian Burrows of the New York Times contacted me and said, “We want to taste your turkeys.” So, they got turkeys from all the big companies from around the United States. And I sent her an Narragansett and a Bourbon Red and a Bronze and my turkeys won. And I was chosen as having the best tasting turkeys in America by the New York Times. What that did was it opened the door to a group called Slow Foods, which is an international organization. (Jim) As opposed to fast foods. (Frank) Yeah. As opposed to fast foods, called Slow Foods. And their company or their organization is all about helping to save what they call artisan foods. And so I became their first person that they ever reached out to that was producing protein. (Jim) So, where are your turkeys going? Back east somewhere or all over the U.S.? (Frank) A large percentage of turkeys every year go to California. A lot of them go to Georgia. But we have shipped turkeys as far away as Israel and England and other parts in Canada and other parts of the world. (Jim) You’re doing important work here, maintaining, sustaining this genetic line basically. How are you going to make sure this continues? You have no children. (Frank) Yeah, I have no children. And I’m the last one in my family I think that’s gonna farm. And my mission is genetic preservation. I have been working with a number of organizations probably the number one is a non-profit organization called Farm Forward. And they’re working on setting up a program that they will probably inherit the farm and the birds. They’re will be other people within their board like those for the members of the American Livestock Conservancy out of North Carolina which I have been member of since their founding 30 some years. We’re looking at some other corporations that maybe will help and a local university to build a school here. Somehow this knowledge, because what I am doing is not new, it’s very old. And it’s being lost and it’s not being taught anywhere. And I think it’s important that it be preserved into the future. And these birds can only be saved by the live animal. You can’t freeze… (Jim) Right, right. (Frank)…the egg, or you can’t freeze the animal in a freezer and then bring ’em back out and reproduce it. There’s only one way at this point science has of reproducing these birds, that’s keeping the live animal. (Jim) Well Frank, I really appreciate you taking time to talk to us about all of your turkeys and your other livestock that you have on the farm. Folks, thank you for joining us today and make sure you are with us next Friday. So, see you then on That’s My Farm.

Closed Captioning brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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