brandon gettle

Pleasant Hope, Mo., FFA member Brandon Gettle earned the state proficiency award in poultry production.

In the great debate over which came first, the turkey or the egg, expect Brandon Gettle to lean to-ward the egg side of the argument.

The former Pleasant Hope, Mo., FFA member operates a turkey layer operation with his folks, Chuck and Diane Gettle. This past spring, he was honored for those efforts by being named the Missouri FFA Poultry Production Proficiency winner.

Producing turkey eggs for Ag Forte isn’t the only thing going on at Moon Valley Farms. The Gettles also have a 50-cow grade A registered Jersey dairy and show extensively.

The turkeys, however, are a major enterprise for the family which operates two sets of two barns, each with a capacity of up to 3200 birds.

The turkey hens run loose in a central pen which is surrounded by laying nests. The nests are open from about 5:30 a.m. to about 6:30 p.m., depending on the time of year and workers pick up eggs on a regular schedule throughout the day. The hens tend to lay at a lower rate in the morning, pick up in the early afternoon and then slack off later in the day.

The hens don’t lay many eggs at night, Brandon explains, and the eggs that are laid overnight in the pen are discarded.

Eggs are cleaned and stored at the farm for twice-per-week pickup.

Another important chore, he explains, is identifying the hens which have “gone broody”—those that remain sitting on a nest.

“Those hens aren’t laying—they’re just setting the nest so we separate them,” Brandon says.

The turkey hens arrive at the Gettle farm full-grown, weighing around 40 pounds. There are two types, hybrids and Nicholas birds. Both are good layers, Brandon notes, but the hybrids tend to lay better during the hotter part of the year while the Nicholas hens are better cold weather producers.

Ag Forte, which is based in Aurora, Mo., provides the hens, feed, cleaning materials for the eggs and expertise. The Gettles, who get paid according to the number of eggs they produce, impact their own bottomline with their management skills—controlling temperature, reacting quickly to problems, ensuring fresh feed and water and, most importantly, by the way they gather and handle the eggs.

Basically, two flocks a year inhabit the barns, each for about five months, with a sanitation period between flocks.

Litter from the barns has proven to be a valuable resource for the Gettles who use most of it on their own pastures and sell the remainder.

On the Jersey side of the operation, the Gettles are striving to build a high quality herd that produces in the parlor and excels in the show ring. Last year they had an All-American heifer and earned a second place at the World Dairy Expo.

Showing dairy cattle takes Brandon around the country and that’s one of the things he liked about FFA.

“FFA took me places I never thought I’d go,” he says. “There is so much opportunity there. It’s definitely a worthwhile experience. I know it did a lot for me and I watched it do a lot for other kids as well.”

Brandon’s advisors were Jeff Voris and Mary Ann Keck. Both he says, are excellent teachers and he credits them for much of his success.

The big thanks, though, goes to his parents, Brandon stresses.

“My parents have supported everything I’ve done,” he ex-plains. “They’ve been great about helping me get started in agriculture.”

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