UK turkey producer opens new hatchery

The opening of a new pedigree hatchery in Danbury, England this summer marks the completion of a five-year expansion for FarmGate Hatcheries turkey breeding program. FarmGate Hatcheries is part of Kelly Turkeys.

Paul Kelly and Shane Lodge, hatchery manager, work at the new facility in Danbury, England.
Paul Kelly and Shane Lodge, hatchery manager, work at the new facility in Danbury, England.

The opening of a new pedigree hatchery in Danbury, England this summer marks the completion of a five-year expansion for FarmGate Hatcheries turkey breeding program. FarmGate Hatcheries is part of Kelly Turkeys.

The hatchery increases the company's output of poults to almost 200,000 a week for the traditional Christmas turkey market. The hatchery is part of the £800,000 program to develop breeding capacity, including investments in pedigree farms in Ayrshire and Essex.

The pedigree hatchery was built on the site of the original commercial turkey hatchery where Derek Kelly began producing poults in the 1970s, when he took over the River Rest Hatcheries. A much larger hatchery for commercial poults was opened alongside the site 16 years ago. Over the past year, pedigree birds were hatched by Coolen in the Netherlands while the new premises were built.

Equipped with single-stage machines, the facility can hatch commercial turkey poults twice a week in the early season before being dedicated to pedigree stock during August and September.

"We've found this year that producers are a lot more cautious about growing turkeys on spec and overall there's been around a 5 percent fall in demand," said Paul Kelly, managing director of FarmGate Hatcheries. "Dumping overproduction on wholesale markets has proved an expensive exercise in many cases.

"As well as catering for the traditional United Kingdom market, the increased capacity will provide for our expanding sales in Europe and we've plans to develop the market for KellyBronze in the United States. With our pedigree farms in Scotland and Essex, and with our pedigree sister farms in East Anglia, we have a strategically placed gene pool that reduces the risk of exports being disrupted through disease outbreak and health certification is critical."

The new hatchery is equipped with four Chick Master single-stage setters with a capacity of 40,320 turkey eggs and two hatchers. Design features include trolleys end-on to the paddle fan to achieve uniform airflow through a clear pathway over the eggs, with no air resistance even when trolleys are turned.  

The modular design provides sectional control and can be configured for different capacities. High-efficiency motors and cooling coils contribute to energy savings, with molded dampers and door seals making the machines airtight to ensure correct carbon dioxide levels.  

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