The first of Moroni Feed Co.'s 1994 turkey crop, weighing in at less than 2 ounces each, went into the brooder coop Nov. 20.

And the last of the 1993 crop - a flock of 20-pounders - went to the processing plant last week."That's the kind of year-round production we want in all phases of our operation," general manager Joe Nielson said.

"The turkey is highly competitive, and we need to have the highest possible utilization of our facilities in order to maintain our position."

This year Moroni Feed will put 4.5 million turkeys - around 75 million pounds - on the market. About 70 percent will be sold as whole carcasses, like 15-pounders for the home trade and 25-pounders for commercial outlets - and 30 percent will undergo further processing into roasts, steaks and a dozen other items.

After five lean years when five producers dropped out because of bank repossessions, inability to obtain financing or just plain discouragement, the prospects are good for a profitable 1993, Nielson said.

In the lean and marginal years, growers considered themselves lucky to clear a half-cent a pound. Now they're looking at 3 to 5 cents.

That optimism is reflected in plans for an increase to 5 million white birds in 1994. "We need that number for a high level of efficiency," Nielson said.

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Nielson attributes Moroni Feed's favorable position in the industry largely to integration. Breeder farms in Juab, Sanpete, Sevier and Washington counties produce the eggs, most of which go into the incubators at the hatchery in Moroni.

The birds are fed mash produced at the company-owned mill, then are sent to processing plants in Moroni and Salina and are marketed by Norbest.

"We're even manufacturing a mulch made from beaks, feet and feathers as we look for a competitive advantage," Nielson said. "We know we can't stand still and survive."

And survival is the bottom line for the giant cooperative's 85 turkey growers, 125 employees in Salina and another 800 in Moroni.

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