Posted by: usset001 | April 23, 2015

How much corn does a turkey eat?

turkeyMinnesota is the top turkey producing state in the country. Turkeys have been affected by the bird flu, with outbreaks making the news on almost a daily basis. It has myself and many others thinking about the impact on corn demand.

At University of Minnesota Extension, Sally Noll is the program leader for our Poultry Production and Health group. These notes are a summary of my conversation with her last week.

The turkey market is ½ hens and ½ toms. About 1/2 the hens are raised for 8-10 weeks, reaching weights of 12-14 pounds. The other half are raised to to 18-20 pounds. The toms are raised for 20-22 weeks, reaching weights of 40+ pounds. Hens and toms are raised in separate barns and, from what I have read so far, reports have not identified the sex of lost birds. At this point I would assume a 50-50 loss of hens and toms, and we will assume an average size of 28 pounds per turkey.

A 2:1 ratio of the amount of feed eaten to body weight gain appears to be a valid assumption. The feed ration is 55-60% corn, with the balance soybean meal, minerals and vitamins, animal protein byproducts, canola meal, sunflower meal. As of last week, Minnesota had lost about 1.4 million turkeys.

Let’s do the math. How much corn would 1.4 million turkeys consume in an entire production cycle?

1.4 mil. turkeys * 28 lbs./turkey * 1.2 lbs. corn/lb. turkey)/56 lbs./bu. corn = 840,000 bushels of corn

That looks like a pretty big number, but the math is not quite that simple. The loss to feed demand involves more than the loss of the current birds. How long will a shuttered facility not produce? One cycle (10-22 weeks)? Two cycles (20-44 weeks)? A year? I don’t know the answer, but we must consider how many production cycles have been lost.

I can put a little perspective on 840,000 bushels by contracting the amount of corn used in turkey production to the amount of corn used in ethanol production. Minnesota has 21 ethanol plants, and the average plant produces a little more than 1 million gallons each week (about 60 million gallons of ethanol each year). Assuming 2.8 gallons of ethanol from each bushel of corn, the average Minnesota ethanol plant processes nearly 400,000 bushels of corn each week.

In other words, the average ethanol plant in Minnesota will process 840,000 bushels of corn in a little more than two weeks.


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