Background of the study
Turkey, a large poultry bird, is fast gaining popularity among peasant farmers in the country to the extent that they are produced throughout the year for commercial purpose. All over the world Turkey is produced by breeders due to its body size, comformation and edible meat yield. Reproductive traits like its oviparous nature and low to medium fertility have not prevented a reasonable rate of improvement under natural condition even in developing countries (Esminger, 1977).Following the quest for massive production of animals like pigs, rabbit and poultry with short reproduction cycle as a major remedy to acute animal protein shortage in Nigeria, emphasis is placed on poultry and its products because they are acceptable to almost all peoples, religions and communities. Among all the species of poultry in Nigeria, turkeys appear to be the less distributed with a population of (0.2 million) (FDLPCS, 1992).
However, it is highly cherished due to its large body size and high meat quality. In Nigeria, about 90% of turkeys are produced for Christmas market mainly for these reasons (Smith, 1990; Veg.Soc.2007).
Although this may be the case, the scanty distribution of turkey in the peri-urban and rural areas of the country calls for serious concern. A notable reason for low distribution of turkey could be its reduced fertility compared to chicken, which factor places serious constraints to its rapid development especially under peasant farming conditions. The natural characteristic of male turkey (large body size) often results to reduced libido and low fertility which discrepancies cause toms not to mate frequently thereby resulting to low reproductive efficiency in turkeys under natural mating conditions.
The development of artificial insemination technology over the past decades has resulted in some significant advances in Turkey breeding. The objective of turkey artificial insemination programme is however not to produce fertile eggs but to produce viable poults (Murray, 1993). The US turkey industry relies on artificial insemination for the production of 300 million turkey annually (William, 2003). In developed world where artificial insemination is exclusively used to achieve acceptable level of fertility, donor toms as a rule are subjected to semen quality evaluation for fertility prediction (Donoghue, 1998). This idea coupled with the improvements on the technique of avian semen storage at ambient temperature, has led to increased multiplication of turkey in developed parts of the world. The situation is rather different in developing countries where these techniques are not adopted and producers have to rely on natural mating and egg hatching techniques to produce poults. Nigeria is one of such developing countries where the use of Artificial Insemination (AI) is still at the experimental stage such that turkey poults are imported for rearing and natural methods are applied on existing local stock to produce poults for turkey meat production.