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Turkey industry doubled in Turlock area and county, estimates reveal


Pieces De Resistance for many a Thanksgiving dinner table are the gobblers shown above. The choice mouthfuls are a part of the huge flock (20,000 birds) on the Soderstrom Brothers ranch; choice eye...

POSTED September 26, 2012 12:16 p.m.

Turlock will close its business doors and turn out for the traditional Turlock-Modesto High School football game here on Thursday in observation of Thanksgiving Day a la Roosevelt. But to many a Turlocker Thanksgiving this year will mean more than a holiday, a football game, and a turkey dinner — although the dinner, as a Thanksgiving Day institution, means their workaday ‘three squares.’ These persons are the Turlock turkey growers, turkey pickers, turkey shippers — all engaged in an industry which has become one of the leading agricultural pursuits of Stanislaus County, one of the leading industries of the Turlock district.

Figures show the turkey industry, both in the Turlock community and Stanislaus County, to have about doubled this year.  Assistant Stanislaus County Farm Advisor George A. Cross estimates 325,000 turkeys in the county this year, with the industry representing about a $730,000 investment.

This figure, however, does not include that portion of the Turlock district lying across the Stanislaus-Merced County line. On four huge ranches in the Turlock district alone, the Conyers, Nimtz, Soderstrom and Rapp ranches, it is estimated that there are approximately 100,000 birds. And the total of birds on the other smaller ranches, including the Berglund, Prothero, Lingerfelt, Nucholls and Cooper ranches, would place the total in the Turlock district closer to 200,000 than 100,000, it is estimated.  

Biggest picker and shipper in Turlock this year is the Christoffersen Poultry Market, operated by Enoch S. Christoffersen.  The Christoffersen plant set what is believed to be a record for the entire valley the other day when it turned out 4,600 birds in a single day.  Christoffersen said the plant’s payroll runs to $2,450 for a six-day week during the peak of the season, and estimates that since the onset of the Thanksgiving rush season the plant has shipped the equivalent of almost 30 carloads of turkeys.

Another plant which is picking and shipping birds on a large scale this year is that of the Acme Poultry Company, which has employed a total of approximately 75 employees during the seasonal peak this year, with an approximate payroll during the past ten days of $1,200. Acme operators estimated that during the ten-day Thanksgiving peak season the plant is turning out about 2,000 turkeys a day, more than half again as many as were being turned out last year.

Other major shipper in the Turlock district is Pacific Coast Produce Company; no picking is done at the plant of the local firm, however, inasmuch as the concern does most of its picking and dressing at its Fresno plant. A representative of Pacific Coast Produce estimated that the firm has shipped about 30,000 birds out of the Turlock district this season or about four and one-half carloads.

Local growers and farm experts agreed that next year probably would see little increase in production.

Reason for their belief is the fact that several factors have combined to force prices this year considerably below last year’s figures. On the local market, for instance, the price this year has ranged between 15 and 17 cents; last year it was around the 28 cent mark.  Chief factors contributing to the weaker market this year are increased production and a holdover from last year. One shipper pointed out that a heavy holdover in the East had depressed the market there. Not only are prices down, production costs are up this year. Growers pointed out that the war had resulted in a marked increase in feed costs, pointing out that fish meal, wheat, and barley all are higher this year than last.  Cross reported progress in the fight to stamp out poultry diseases which afflict turkeys. Chief among these, he said, are pullorum, chicken pox, and trichamonad infection. The pullorum menace, according to Cross, is being gradually stamped out through the use of blood tests.  No serious losses due to disease were reported in the county this year, he said. Greatest single loss of birds occurred when a West Side poultry rancher lost several thousand birds in the heat wave late in the summer.

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