Turkeys are a lot of things ...

... delicious when roasted, docile, even noble in the eyes of Benjamin Franklin, but take it from two 4-H members who raise them — they’re not smart

TURKEY RAISERS DYLAN DASHER, 15, (left) and Tayten Platner, 13, showed off a couple bourbon red turkeys they raised this year. The stepbrothers are members of the Jay Road 4-H Club in Belgium and raise turkeys every year to show at the Ozaukee County Fair. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press staff

Turkeys take center stage this time of year, when nearly every dinner table will sport one as the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving feast.

But for Josh Platner and his son, Tayten Platner, 13, and step son, Dylan Dasher, 15, turkeys are the star of the show year-round.

That’s because they have raised turkeys with the Jay Road 4-H Club and shown them at the Ozaukee County Fair for the last few years, winning ribbons and selling the birds for hundreds of dollars in the process.

“Not a lot of people raise them. I thought it would be neat to do it. It seemed like it would be a lot of fun,” Tayten said. “It’s not fun to wash them but it’s fun showing them.”

Turkeys aren’t walked around for fair judges like livestock, he pointed out.

“You get to hang out with your friends. They just judge them in their cage.

“They’re pretty easy to raise, too,” he said. “I like to let them out and free range. They’ll eat anything pretty much.”

You have to watch them, however, Tayten said.

They travel in a group, usually following the largest male. They can get lost.

“Once we found them down the road at a local vet,” Tayten said.

The hardest part about raising turkeys is their legendary lack of intellectual capacity.

“They are REALLY dumb,” Tayten said.

They had one turkey walk into a pond and drown. Another stuck its head between a barbed wire fence and strangled itself.

Another got trapped in an open gate, Tayten said. 

“It just kept bumping into a wall and didn’t know how to turn around,” he said.

They’re not harmless, however. They come equipped with a spur on the back of their leg.

Once Tayten was washing a male turkey to prepare it for the fair and it cut his leg with the spur.

Josh Platner buys the turkeys in March from hatcheries as far away as Ohio when they are only one day old. By August the boys are showing them at the fair.

He and the boys raise the birds on a hobby farm near Cedar Grove that belongs to a friend’s parents. Josh also works at Charter Steel in Saukville.

Most of the turkeys are broad-breasted whites or bronzes, the type usually served during the holidays and which they show at the County Fair.

Josh said they also often buy “exotic” breeds, such bourbon reds and midget turkeys. Those don’t plump up fast enough for the fair but they still sell them, he said. 

“They’re meant to be hardier birds. The broad-breasted ones are made to just pump on the weight and finish out quick,” he said. “You have to watch it, though. Sometimes they can gain so much weight they can’t stand up any longer.”

Both boys also have shown pigs, chickens and sheep at the fair, Josh said. 

“Pigs are a lot of work,” Tayten said.

“I’ll probably show turkeys until I graduate,” said Tayten, who attends Ozaukee Middle School in Fredonia.

Dylan attends Cedar Grove-Belgium High School.

He said they give dressed turkeys to family and friends for the holidays, however.

But will they eat one of their own turkeys on Thanksgiving Day?

“We actually are deer hunters so we’ll eat venison. Thanksgiving is more about hunting for us,” Josh said. “We get home pooped and get up and go the next day.”

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494
 

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