Production of Va. turkeys up

By Henry Culvyhouse

Virginia’s expected turkey production for 2014 will be 16 million birds, a 3 percent increase from the 2013 total of 15.5 million, according to the National Agriculture Statistic Service’s September survey of turkey producing states.

Virginia’s turkey production is mostly based on small, family owned farms raising turkeys under contract for large poultry companies, such as Tyson or Pilgrim’s Pride. Because the state’s poultry processing plants are centered in the Shenandoah Valley, most of the state’s turkeys come from Rockingham, Augusta, Page and Shenandoah counties.

Hobey Bauhan, president of the Virginia Poultry Federation, said that while the 3 percent increase in production is welcomed, there is still more work to be done to increase production.

“Before 2012, Virginia was producing 17 million turkeys a year, but starting that year, the price of corn shot up due to drought and being diverted to create ethanol,” Bauhan said.

According to Bauhan, many turkey farms face economic hardship as they recover from the drop in production in 2012.

“Farmers are some of the hardest-working folks. However, they are becoming pressured by increases in fuel costs, regulation and feed costs,” Bauhan said. “Going forward, they really have to keep an eye on costs if they want to continue production.”

Virginia’s rise in turkey production runs contrary to the rest of the country’s trend, which saw a 2 percent drop of in turkeys produced, from 240 million birds in 2013 to 235 million in 2014. Much of the drop can be attributed to North Carolina, which saw an 18 percent drop, from 34 million birds in 2013 to 28 million in 2014. Minnesota boasted the highest number of turkeys produced in 2014 at 45 million birds.

The number of turkeys produced nationally has dropped steadily over the years from a high of 270 million birds in 2008.

According to David Harvey with the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, there are multiple causes for the national decrease in turkey production.

“The numbers are down, but the weight of each bird is up,” Harvey said. “Also, we see that the turkey production is often dependent on the price of grain, so if it costs more to feed the birds, they won’t get as many birds.”

However, with Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, Harvey said turkey production should increase at the close of 2014.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137, ext. 184, or at