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Published November 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

Turkey time

Mott resident Joe Casale sells a lot of turkeys this time of year, but is keeping one 60-pounder for his own Thanksgiving dinner.

By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press

Mott resident Joe Casale sells a lot of turkeys this time of year, but is keeping one 60-pounder for his own Thanksgiving dinner.

Casale, who lives about four miles north and four miles east of Mott, said he starts out in May with about 50 turkey chicks and though he said he sells quite a few before Thanksgiving, he will continue to sell some for the Christmas season.

“I’ve been getting calls all day, especially the last few days,” Casale said on Wednesday.

Casale has lived in a few states and raised animals. For the past two years, he’s resided near Mott with his wife, Diane, and raised turkeys and goats.

Out of about 50, Casale said he’s down to about 30.

“I raise them naturally, no hormones or that kind of stuff and I sell them live,” Casale said. “I feed them an all-natural feed.”

There is no one certified to butcher the turkeys in the state, Casale said so those who purchase them must do it themselves.

“To butcher here, like in any other state, you have to be a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) facility,” Casale said. “Legally I can’t sell them butchered; I have to sell them live.”

Raising turkeys isn’t difficult, he said.

“I have an automatic waterer and automatic feeder and it’s kind of like a dog, you fill the thing up and it lasts for a few days,” Casale said. “Once you purchase them, it’s just keeping their cage clean and watching out for diseases, but really they’re very low on maintenance.”

Sharlene Wittenburg, North Dakota Turkey Federation president, said there are 12 active commercial turkey growers within the state that send their turkeys to be processed.

“Roughly there are about 1.2 million birds placed in North Dakota,” Wittenburg said. “I’d say they range from flocks of 12,000 to 36,000.”

The number of growers in the state has gone down, Wittenburg, because turkey growing is very capital intensive.

Casale said he sells them by the pound and has a few different breeds, which vary in size. He has one turkey at his farm which weighs in at more than 60 pounds, he said.

“I’ve had bigger in the past,” Casale said with a laugh. “I’ve put 60 pounds in the oven. But I have smaller ones too. I use different breeds to get to different sizes.”

Casale said he picks his own Thanksgiving turkey and separates it from the rest. His turkey which weighs more than 60 pounds live and will end up being about 40 pounds in the oven.

Those wanting a turkey are welcome to come and pick it out, he added.

“We’re usually ready to go selling turkeys about five weeks before Thanksgiving,” Casale said. “Even after Thanksgiving, they’re still going and growing. They don’t have an expiration date or an I’m-no-longer-tender date.”

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