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How a local turkey farmer from Cheshire prepares for Christmas

PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 December 2019

Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover

Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover

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Richard Clarkson, founder of the free-range turkey farm Park Farm Turkeys, tells us about his working day in the run up to Christmas

Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover

07:00

DOING THE ROUNDS

I'm outside on the farm by 7am and my first job is to let the free-range turkeys out after shutting them in overnight to protect them. Out of our 9500 turkeys, we barn-rear some for a company, but we only sell free-range Christmas bronze turkeys to our customers as this is our passion. There's more flavour to them and they're stress-free, allowed to run around outside. We have 15 different breeds, which means we can accommodate all the different sizes for Christmas dinner orders. I'll then check on the health of the birds. I'll check over their feathers, how they are walking and how they look in general.

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Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover

08:00

FEEDING TIME

After nipping in for a quick breakfast (check your livestock before you check yourself!), there's all the feed hoppers to fill up with feed I buy locally from Masseys at Holmes Chapel. We have a motto - our birds are 'Cheshire bred and Cheshire fed'. I'll often be re-bedding at this time too - spreading out the straw for them to lay on - and this normally takes the rest of the morning. Instead of cleaning it out, I layer fresh bedding on top. We like to keep the depth really thick as it keeps them warm, comfy and gives them a nice environment.

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Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover

12:00

PLAY TIME

I give the birds as much of my time as I possibly can, so I check in on them again after lunch. Turkeys don't like strange noises and like routine so I have music playing in the background constantly. Someone even whistling a strange tune can upset them, so it helps to calm them down. They're very classical, my birds! They don't like modern pop music - I think they like the pianist Ludovico Einaudi the most! They don't like it when my stepson Max drives down the driveway with his modern music. I've also put xylophones on the wall, because when they tap them with their beaks it makes a noise and they like that.

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Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover

13:00

FARMING DUTIES

The afternoon is set aside for other farm duties like maintenance of machinery and repairs. I'll work on the crops too and this normally takes me to just before dark. I grow maize on the farm which is a seed for cattle that I sell, I also grow potatoes and grass for haylage. In turkey season, from July until Christmas, I juggle the two jobs but the turkeys take priority and the other jobs fit around them. Sometimes my partner Shelley will help me, or my dad Eric, but I work on my own most of the time and I quite like it - I like to know everything is done right! I'm used to being busy as I've been in farming all my life. My dad was a farmer and I'm in the fifth generation, so I never wanted to do anything else. I couldn't wait to get home from school and out there.

Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover Richard and Shelley Clarkson's Park Farm turkeys at Over Peover

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17:00

ROUNDING UP

I check around all the pens again once it has started to get dark, and then let the turkeys know its bedtime. Once they come in to their beds, they have a feed, find a nice spot to settle down and I try not to disturb them after that. They don't love coming in though, so we have a light that we turn on in the pens and when we start turning it down, they all run in to the disco.

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19:00

MAKING PLANS

I'll come in for tea with Max and Shelley, and we'll all sit down together. Afterwards, Shelley and I will go through the admin stuff we need to think about like invoices and planning the collection day. Christmas is such a community time, and turkeys are a big tradition for people. It's the only farming we do where we deal directly with the customers - a lot of the villagers come to meet the turkeys. It's really nice to get feedback so we have an open day for collecting the turkeys with mulled wine and mince pies, and it goes down well! I'm very open with my farm and inviting people in, as I believe strongly in what we do. I like to show people the positive side of farming and I think farms need to be more open, because people have worries about the poultry industry. We have very high welfare standards; my turkeys are running in and out of open barns, and it's a natural environment that they live in.

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21:00

BEDTIME

After a bit of feet up time and maybe some Emmerdale, I'll quietly walk around and check the turkeys again. I'll switch off the music, and tell them it's time to go to sleep! If it's a bright night, they don't settle as well so I have to leave the music on a bit longer. I'll always be in bed by 10 or 11 though, so I can be up and out the next day.

parkfarmpeover.co.uk



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