Christmas countdown for poultry pair

Tim and Lynne Lindley with turkeys at Hostingley Farm, Thornhill, Dewsbury.
Tim and Lynne Lindley with turkeys at Hostingley Farm, Thornhill, Dewsbury.
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When the bedside alarm rings at five o’clock on Monday morning it will once again signal ‘Turkey Time’ for Tim and Lynne Lindley at their 130-acre tenanted Hostingley Farm on the edge of Thornhill near Dewsbury.

This week they were gearing up for the month ahead as their turkeys and geese, brought in as day-old chicks during May and June, are prepared Christmas.

“It’s an incredibly intense period,” said Tim.

“From when we start plucking at six o’clock on Monday my days go through until midnight and beyond.

“There’s so much that needs to be done and in the first few days one of the most important aspects is to monitor the fridges. We’ve had a man here to service them this week. We don’t use them for the rest of the year as that would be too expensive. So when we turn them on again for the first time in 11 months it’s vital that they run correctly and stay at a temperature of between zero and two degrees.”

Last week’s news of a strain of bird flu found in East Yorkshire did nothing to help with Tim’s stress levels. He took immediate action to ensure that his birds were as immune as they could be from any possible threat, even though the talk had been that there was little to be concerned about.

“It was an instant worry as you might expect. I rang our vet straight away and on his advice we brought them in to the barn for the final week. They’re usually out in the fields but we wanted to make sure that they were fit, well and secure.

“Our biosecurity measures have always been in place with boot and tyre washes as we don’t know where a feed truck may have been on its travels.”

Bronze turkeys are Tim and Lynne’s speciality and make up three-quarters of their flock.

“When we started with turkeys we began with the white barn-reared variety but over the years there’s been a growing demand for bronze turkeys. We’ve had them for something like 15 years now.

“We hang our turkeys for at least 10 days and have undertaken a great deal of development on the line. We start with the first batch on Monday and we make a point of dry-plucking.”

The Lindleys’ turkeys and geese are of course destined for Christmas dinner tables around West Yorkshire either via collection from the farm or from farm shops, but Tim and Lynne take pride in ensuring that their birds’ welfare is paramount and Tim enjoys working with them.

“Both the turkeys and geese are so inquisitive. Some people seem to think of them more as objects rather than animals, but you get some real individual characters that will come up to you and some who prefer to be at the back that will always be further away. They pay so much attention to their surroundings that I think some people are quite surprised.

“All the turkeys were stood around me one day with their heads collectively tilted to one side. It was comical but then I noticed they were all taking notice of an aeroplane.

“You don’t sometimes think about them noticing these things but they do.”

Although turkey is still by far the number one meat for Brits on Christmas Day, goose has undergone something of a revival - a throw back to the days when it was goose that was the festive favourite instead of turkey. Oddly, goose is sometimes now seen as the favourite of the wealthy.

“It’s a bit ironic,” said Tim.

“Goose was seen as the poor man’s meat years ago.”

Turkeys account for 80 per cent of the Lindleys’ sales with the geese 20 per cent. Lynne, who keeps the order book, reports a significant movement to ordering online.

“It’s now about 40 per cent and it’s growing.”

All hands will be on deck at Hostingley for December including help from their son Tom and daughter Ellie.

“We have a great team and when we’re at our busiest it really is demanding work,” said Lynne.

“We couldn’t do without them both.”

The Lindleys also support charities that feed the homeless by supplying turkeys and were involved with ‘Turkeys for Troops’ in Afghanistan organised by the NFU.

Lynne said: “We don’t have much chance to do the lovely Christmas things because we’re that busy, so this is our way of spreading some festive cheer.”

Generation game

Tim and Lynne Lindley took over the running of Hostingley Farm some 24 years ago.

When Tim’s father Desmond moved from Middlestown, Wakefield in the late 1950s it was a dairy farm but he started rearing pullets and producing eggs. There was also a small farm shop.

When Tim and Lynne got to work they also had a pedigree Limousin beef herd and after selling their suckler cows they moved further into turkey and geese production.

Besides the birds, they also grow wheat, oil seed rape, barley and maize on their land which ranges from blue clay to coal, sand and gravel.