November 29, 2021 at 8:51 p.m.
Scot and Becky Hammann and their children, Brooke, 20, Summer, 16, Brody, 13, and Shyanne, 10, operate Triple-H Holsteins in Barron where they milk 45 registered Holsteins and Jerseys. Scot and his mother, Mary Hammann, work together to operate two turkey grower sheds for Jennie-O Turkeys.
The decision to meld the worlds of dairy farming and turkey farming came naturally to the Hammanns.
“Scot decided he wanted to dairy farm after high school,” Mary said. “We felt that starting with the turkeys was a way to help create supplemental income to help make the farm cash flow for him.
The Hammanns were not completely unfamiliar with the turkey industry in their area. During high school, Scot worked for Jennie-O in the company-owned sheds, caring for turkeys. Mary had also been employed by Jennie-O.
“I worked for Jennie-O from about the time I was 16, on different farms they owned,” Scot said. “So I knew about raising turkeys and knew it was something I didn’t mind doing.”
The first shed was completed in October 2000, and the Hammanns started with their first flock. A second shed was completed in January 2001, and the Hammanns began raising an average of three-and-a-half flocks each year, finishing out a flock every 15 to 16 weeks. At maturity, the birds weigh an average of 45 pounds each, producing approximately three million pounds of turkey annually for the local processor.
Each farm that raises turkeys has a contract with the company outlining the partnership.
The first flocks were raised and underway while Scot was attending technical college before returning home to start a fledgling dairy herd in November 2001. The Hammanns had not had cows on their farm for about five years before Scot returned home.
Mary, who also drives bus for the school district, typically does the first round of chores and checks at the turkey sheds. Scot goes over late-morning after finishing chores on the dairy and does the second round of checks and chores at the sheds. Mary goes back in the late afternoon or evening to check the birds again. The contracts with Jennie-O provide for strict biosecurity, limiting entrance in the sheds to Scot and Mary, along with their Jennie-O serviceman.
The turkey litter helps the Hammanns keep their own fertilizer costs down and creates an income from the birds as the Hammanns contract with other area farms to sell the turkey litter for fertilizer.
“We usually use about a shed’s worth ourselves and then have the other five sheds’ worth to sell each year,” Scot said.
In the 21 years they have been raising turkeys, there have been a variety of changes they have experienced.
“Like every area of ag, there has been new technologies and new protocols that come into play,” Scot said.
About five years ago, the Hammanns added a climate control system to their sheds that alert to any changes in temperature, water usage or power outages.
“I am now able to pull up the app on my phone and check everything in the sheds, anytime, anywhere,” Mary said. “We can see if there is a water leak we need to go take care of, just by knowing if the water usage is increasing.”
The birds have rigid requirements in terms of temperature and ventilation, and a power outage can spell disaster for the flocks. The new system alerts the Hammanns if there is ever a potential issue.
“It really makes it that much easier to care for them,” Scot said.
Hammann said their sheds use a curtain system to provide natural ventilation, but newer-built sheds often include tunnel ventilation systems and are set up with back-up generators to protect against power outages.
In the years since they raised their first flocks, there has been increased awareness of consumer perception. Jennie-O has also developed vaccination protocols to help keep the birds healthy.
“We have audits conducted on a regular basis, similar to the FARM program for dairy, where someone comes in and basically checks that the birds are being well cared for,” Scot said. “That is done to assure the businesses that buy from Jennie-O that it is a top-quality product.”
The Hammanns said the birds have certain antics that are amusing, including their instinct to nest immediately at dark, which can present challenges with the lights set on automatic timers.
“If you are walking in the sheds checking on the birds and the lights go down, it’s nearly impossible to move,” Scot said. “They just stop where they are standing. You have to just shuffle your feet along to try and find your way out without tripping.”
With the team approach and with the increased technology, raising turkeys continues to make sense to the Hammanns as a way to diversify their farm, providing multiple income sources to allow their family to continue farming.
“Farming was all he ever really wanted to do, once he got over not being a professional football player,” Mary said, with a laugh. “Milking cows and raising turkeys seem to work well together.”
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