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Talking Turkey

Millennium Scholar presents heritage turkey research.
Arianna Ferguson

Arianna Ferguson

Arianna Ferguson, a rising junior majoring in veterinary and biomedical sciences, presented the findings of her research project--"Incorporating Natural Feedstuffs into the Diet of Heritage Turkeys"--at the International Poultry Science Forum in Atlanta in January.

A Penn State Millennium Scholar required to conduct research as part of her undergraduate scholarship, Ferguson worked under the guidance of poultry science professor Paul Patterson. His research group is studying alternative production methods for raising the unconventional poultry.

Ferguson's research focused on the performance of the "Artisan Gold"--a French bird with black Spanish heritage--in a trial with 12 pens of turkeys, each holding six birds. Six pens were given commercial feed. The other six pens were fed commercial feed plus 15 percent natural foods. The feed mix was designed to encourage the birds to consume natural foods such as insects, mushrooms, berries, and nuts.

"The birds really liked the fly larvae, blueberries, hickory nuts, and Chinese chestnuts," said Ferguson. "It was obvious they preferred some of the natural foods we gave them and others not so much, to the point they barely ate some. Juneberries, for example, they didn't like--the turkeys tended to play with the hazelnuts instead of eating them."

Ferguson (above) noted that the study's results suggest that the growth of heritage turkeys depends on the palatability of the natural foods.

--Jeff Mulhollem