With the economic climate affecting consumer buying, producers of traditional Christmas turkeys are being urged to plan early and be prepared for the likely demand for smaller birds this coming Christmas.

Paul Kelly, managing director of turkey poult suppliers Farmgate Hatcheries said: “Last year there was a shortage of turkeys in the 4kg weight range. We saw that for ourselves, as we’re also at the sharp end of the retail business.

“There’s every indication that there will be another shortage, maybe a bigger one, of the popular smaller sizes.

“Our experience from the recession in the early 1990s suggests that top quality turkeys from the farmgate and from the butcher do not suffer a drop in sales, but it is important to provide what consumers want.”

Mr Kelly added: “So in ordering poults for placement this summer, we recommend that producers make sure they will have enough of the smaller strains to provide the right spread of weights for their customers. Our range of specially selected breeds will achieve weights from 3-10kg at ages from 10-26 weeks.”

Farmgate Hatcheries is continuing to develop the breeding of smaller strains of both bronze and white turkeys, and will be assessing further test crosses this year.

Last year Kelly Turkeys test marketed the Demi KellyBronze, a 5kg turkey split into two to provide a 2.5-3kg joint, which scooped an innovation award.

“It has all the eating quality of a whole turkey on the bone, but caters for the small family,” added Mr Kelly.