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Klemm’s horse boarding facility can talk turkey, too

By TAMARA SCULLY
AFP Correspondent

FREDON — This time of the year, Dave Klemm, of Waterwheel Farm, has just about had it with talking turkey.
For the past six or seven months, the noise from more than 90 turkeys of various breeds who called Waterwheel Farm home was the background music which serenaded the horses.
Primarily a horse boarding facility, the farm — really a collection of homes and adjoining land all owned by the Klemm family for decades — includes The Stables at Waterwheel Farm, a full-service boarding facility directly on the Paulinskill Valley Trail, perfectly situated for easy riding access, with more than 40 acres of pasture.
The horses are joined on the farm by a handful of Black Angus cattle, which are sold by the quarter or half.
One group is ready to go in the fall, and the other mid-winter, Klemm said. The cattle are on pasture, primarily grass-fed with a small bit of grain for texture and taste.
For much of the year, the cattle and horses share the farm’s very scenic pastures with the destined-for-the-Thanksgiving-table turkeys.
Klemm mail-orders his birds each spring.
They arrive as three-day old poults via the United States Post Office.
After dipping their beaks in water, so they learn how to drink, the birds are kept in a large tub, under heat lamps, Klemm said.
Requiring an initial temperature of about 95 degrees, the birds are slowly acclimated to cooler temperatures as they grow.
Klemm drops the temperature in five degree increments over the next few weeks — by adjusting the heat lamp — until the birds are strong enough and old enough to acclimate to normal temperatures, which occurs at about six weeks of age.
Poults are extremely sensitive to cold weather, so this acclimation is crucial.
The birds are next housed in a corn crib, and then moved to a larger type of holding pen.
The pen is outdoors, covered completely with netting, to protect them from predators or from flying off.
Shelter is readily accessible for adverse weather, via a canvas covering some of the pen’s netting, as well as the connected corn crib, but the turkeys typically spend most of there time in the open penned areas, Klemm said.
These lucky turkeys also get time out of their pen, and onto more open pastures, grazing to their heart’s content.
Due to predator concerns, Klemm is present when the turkey are on pasture, where they consume grass and peck at insects and seeds.
The turkeys are not able to consume all the needed nutrients from pasture, however, and are given standard turkey feed, which is a mix of grains and minerals, consisting of 26-percent protein when young, and tapering off to 18-percent protein for the mature birds.
Grain is a natural part of a turkey’s diet, and even wild turkeys eat grain, as well as grass and berries, nuts, seeds and insects.
Turkeys, like chickens, require a constant water supply.
Klemm has two automatic water dispensers, as well as feed dispensers available to the birds at all times.
While turkey are prone to some disease issues, the biggest concern is cannibalism.
Klemm loses a few birds each season, typically at the hands of the other birds, who prey on the weaker ones.
Klemm raises three varieties of birds: Narragansetts, Broad-breasted Whites, and Broad-breasted Bronze.
The Narragansetts are a heritage breed, and in great demand by customers, Klemm said.
These birds typically net a carcass of nine to 19 pounds.
There is more dark meat, and a richer taste than in the typical Broad-breasted whites are the standard commercial turkey.
Broad-breasted bronzes are a cross between wild, native turkeys and European domestic turkeys, which produced the Bronze breed, recognized since 1874.
However, in the mid-20th century, the Bronzes were bred for breast meat, and the Broad-breasted Bronze was the result.
No longer used in large-scale commercial farming, the Broad-breasted Bronze is grown by smaller farms for the direct market.
Both Broad-breasted varieties yield a 20- to 40-pound bird for the Thanksgiving table, with plenty of white breast meat.
“Everyone loves the Narrag-ansetts,” Klemm said. “ I raise the other ones because of the great amount of breast meat. I used to raise the Bourbon Reds but they didn’t seem as strong as the Narragansetts.”
Klemm has been raising a variety of turkey breeds for approximately seven years.
About a month prior to Thanksgiving, Klemm sends out an e-mail to the agricultural community in general, to previous customers, and others to alert them to the available turkeys.
Most of his customers, he said, find him by word of mouth. Several have been customers for years.
Customers select a bird based on breed and size, and purchase the live bird. Klemm has his customers’ birds butchered and packaged at Goffle Road Turkey Farm.
Before the birds can be processed a USDA inspector visits Waterwheel Farm to take swabs and test for any disease issues in the birds.
The birds are given a clean bill of health, and there is a ten day window in which to complete the processing, or the tests must be redone, Klemm said.
After the last-minute, pre-Thanksgiving rush to get the birds ready for customer pickup, the Klemm family can sit down and enjoy their own Thanksgiving meal, knowing that the bird was raised right on the farm, in optimum conditions.
Then, they can hit the stables and take a trail ride, all without leaving home.