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The Haves and Have Nots

This Turkey Tuesday is about the haves and have nots – the 2 toms on the right have ladies, the 2 jakes to the left do not. Every spring, folks see jakes displaying for hens and assume those jakes are responsible for breeding and producing clutches. The reality is research has shown that a very small percentage of jakes are capable of fertilizing clutches their first spring. So, jakes contribute little to nothing to the reproduction that drives our turkey populations – they are biding their time until they’re 2-year-olds. Yes, jakes will group up and chase single or pairs of toms, and yes, they’ll sometimes cause a tom to shift around to avoid harassment. But they’re not breeders, and the reasons are simple. First, jakes have poorly developed testes rarely capable of producing enough sperm to fertilize clutches – the 2nd pic shows a comparison between the testis of a jake and tom from Georgia. Second, the presence of toms in the area socially suppresses jakes from ascending the dominance hierarchy in a way that would allow them to breed. Third, toms interacting with and asserting social dominance over jakes suppresses testosterone in those jakes, ensuring they are not part of the breeding population. The take home is, jakes will put on a show and make you think they’re one of the haves when it comes to breeding with hens – but the research says otherwise. Pic of turkeys

© Tes Randle Jolly

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