Genetics, schmenetics.

This post is about my knowledge of genetics. It will be a very short post.

Genetic diversity is good. (I told you it would be short.)

This is not an issue with the vast majority of species, but if you propose to help propagate an endangered species, it has to be foremost on your mind. Here’s the math:

Endangered species = small gene pool.
Small gene pool = lack of genetic diversity.
Lack of genetic diversity = bad.

In the case of heritage turkeys, bad comes in the form of weak, unstable legs and/or infertility, which, as you might imagine, would be detrimental to a breeding program which seeks to improve and promote the breed. The fact that I had not one but two poult dreams postponed last spring due to non-hatching further impresses the importance of this.

Here’s what we have: I am getting 15-18 poults in mid to late May from Porter’s Heritage Turkeys, the best in the heritage turkey biz, the gold standard (as far as I am aware). But…they are all coming from the same place, and, presumably, a limited gene pool. Can I breed, say, brother to sister and expect the solid foundation for our breeding program?

It might be okay, but it’s a big risk. Too big for me to take. So…what’s the solution? Here’s what I have so far; please let me know if you think I might be onto something, or if I’m insane, or both.

I am planning, first off, for some incredibly wonderful person in my life to gift me with this particular incubator with this particular egg turner. That’s the first, critical, part of the plan.

Then, to roughly coincide with the arrival of my Porter’s turkeys, I would order and hatch turkey eggs, likely blue slate, from another reputable breeder, one who has been established as having foundation stock that did not come from Porter’s. (Diversity? Check.) I would mark the poults hatched by me, whatever their number, with some system, could be leg bands, could be wing trimming on opposite wings from the Porter’s birds.

I then raise 25-30 turkeys. (Insanity? Check.) Come fall, I pick girls from one hatch and boys from the other to keep as my breeding stock, slaughtering the rest. This is the only way I can think to do this without complicated tracking and breeding containment systems.

Yes, I’m insane. Other than that, what say you? She will work, non?

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One thought on “Genetics, schmenetics.

  1. Is your middle name Darwin?
    Does Mother Nature lay awake at night fretting over such issues, I wonder?
    It makes perfect sense…but what I know about Turkey breeding could be written on the back of a small postage stamp…..bon chance!

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