Tewes Farm tries to avoid bird flu

ERLANGER, Ky. — Raising thousands of turkeys for customers to feed their families at Thanksgiving takes a lot of hard work and also requires a lot of things to go right. This year, that includes protecting the flock against avian flu.

A northern Kentucky farm is preparing for its busiest time of the year with this added challenge, which could also affect how much people pay at checkout for their Thanksgiving shopping.

What do you want to know

  • Tewes Farm in Erlanger is Northern Kentucky’s only fresh turkey farm
  • Generations of the Tewes family come together to help raise around 3,000 turkeys that customers can take home and feed their families
  • Besides the normal annual challenges of keeping the flock healthy and safe, bird flu, which has spread to the United States, threatens their flocks
  • Tewes has so far managed to keep his herd isolated

Stephanie Tewes has come a long way since her fear of turkeys as a little girl. Not learning to embrace and nurture them was never an option in his family. She and two of her sisters work on the farm part-time, while her brother and another sister have full-time jobs.

“We were born and raised here hanging out on the farm,” Tewes said. “We continue to do what we started years and years ago. Many of us return here to help at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.

Last year, Spectrum News 1 spoke to Stephanie’s father, Dan Tewes. Getting free help on the farm and delegating maintenance responsibilities, he found, are two benefits of having many children.

John Tewes, who founded Tewes Farm in northern Kentucky, had 18 children. (Tewes Farm)

This is something Stephanie’s grandfather, John Tewes, who started Tewes Farm, must have known as well. John Tewes originally settled in Edgewood. The current location of the farm is in Erlanger.

“He actually nickeled and downsized and quartered his way to having a property he could have his family on. And they had 18 kids, which is good for us now because we have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins ​​to help out at this crazy time of year,” Tewes said. .

The farm needs all of these family members to prepare its approximately 3,000 turkeys that customers can take home and cook for their families.

“Around Thanksgiving, everything is on deck. That’s the main goal, is to help dad,” Stephanie Tewes said. “That’s really what we’ve been doing all year, is preparing for this. He therefore receives baby turkeys in July to the point of knowing everything that goes in and out of them. So he will only have them for about six months. Because you want the freshest turkey.

Tewes is Northern Kentucky’s only fresh turkey farm. Customers can order online by describing the size range of the turkey they are looking for. Then they pick up the bird, fully transformed and ready to go in the oven. It doesn’t get much cooler, Tewes said.

“Some people think you can come get your turkey and say, ‘I’d like that one.’ And that seems weird to me,” she said with a laugh. “I can tell you which one you picked, if that’s your kind of thing.”

Keeping the herd healthy and out of harm’s way is a challenge every year as potential predators loom outside the farm fences.

The current avian flu epidemic only adds to this challenge. The mere mention of this makes Tewes think.

Tewes Farm says it has so far been successful in avoiding bird flu. (Spectrum News 1/Sam Knef)

“Well, that’s a word we don’t like to use. Because we don’t want to be affected by it,” Tewes said.

Kentucky is one of 42 states where bird flu has spread, according to the USDA. Farmers slaughtered more than 47 million birds during the outbreak.

It is mainly spread by migrating waterfowl. Although meat and eggs are safe to eat if properly prepared, according to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, any positive case found on a farm means the farm must be quarantined and cannot sell any product.

“We really want them to step up their biosecurity levels, regardless of the size of the operation, whether they have five chickens or thousands of chickens,” said Keith Rogers, chief of staff at the Department of Agriculture. from Kentucky.

Tewes Farm has so far succeeded in keeping bird flu away from its flock.

“That’s part of the reason we have all the scarecrows looking for things out there, trying to keep anything away from our turkeys, so it doesn’t spread and get into our population. . So we have another month to get there, and I hope and pray,” Tewes said.

According to the USDA, the outbreak has contributed to higher egg prices and higher poultry prices.

Over the past three months, inflation has peaked at just over 8%. Food at home did the same at 13%. In September 2021, inflation was 5.4%. Similarly, food inflation was below 4.5%.

“Whether prices will continue to moderate is an open question. Right now, inflation remains well above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target,” said Janet Harrah, an economist at Northern Kentucky University.

With inflation in mind, Harrah said most Americans are likely to change the way they plan Thanksgiving.

“Shoppers will likely focus on buying ingredients for a few key dishes such as turkey and mashed potatoes while foregoing other side dishes such as buns and green bean casserole. “, said Harrah.

Tewes Farm has already had to raise prices from about $3.50 a pound for a turkey last year to $4.50 a pound this year to keep up with inflation.

“We hate to do this, but really, as everyone knows it’s been at the grocery store anywhere lately, the price of everything has gone up,” Tewes said.

The increase in the price of feed to feed the turkeys is one of the contributing factors. Tewes said the farm spends $10,000 on turkey feed each week. Prices for straw and hay also increased.

Anyone considering ordering from Tewes Farm should do so early, Tewes said.

“That’s what we have. We don’t get any more,” she said. “There is potential for a shortage, but I mean, we can’t track what Kroger is doing, or how much they’re going to end up with.”

Learn more on the Tewes Farm website or by emailing farmer@tewesfarm.com.

Are you outside of Northern Kentucky? Other fresh turkey farms in the state include Elmwood Stock Farm in Georgetown, Star Farm in Hardyville, and Cedar Hill Homestead in Carlisle.

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