Let's talk turkeys. And when it comes to talking turkeys then there is one farm which is now firmly on the map as it celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Copas Farm, in Cookham Dean, has been producing turkeys since Tom Copas Snr, 78, left school at 16 to go into the family business of fruit growing, pig rearing and cattle farming.

However, his father “didn’t want him anywhere near the family trade” according to Tom Jnr, 32, so he bought Tom Snr 153 turkeys to start his own business.

Now, the family has 22,000 turkeys – and they’re not just any turkeys, for the Copas family have grown a reputation for higher class birds – they are reared for 26 weeks, not the usual 12-18 weeks for those bought in most supermarkets for your Christmas dinner.

And to protect them from hunting foxes, which can kill up to 300 birds a night, the family have brought in south American alpacas on guard duty.

Not only are they lovely to look at, but they do a great job and farm staff have seen them chase off marauding vermin.

Tom Jnr said: “My dad had to work out how to look after them and granny told the Women’s Institute to buy them. He actually went door-to-door to start-up the business. Now we will provide 30,000 birds for the Christmas market.”

There are 12 different bronze breeds in 24 different weight bands.

He explained: “We don’t rear by size, but by age. All our birds are 26 weeks old by the time they go to slaughter.”

The reason most turkeys you buy in the stores are aged between 12 to 18 weeks is because after that age it is uneconomical as there is no financial return on the feed.

That’s where the Copas turkeys prove different, according to Tom Jnr.

Starting at £73-a-bird, it doesn’t sound cheap, but feeding six to eight people at the Christmas table and providing left-over meat for sandwiches, salads and curries, the quality is what the family strives for – and the price per person becomes very good.

Add to that, you get in your Christmas package, a timer that pops out of the bird when it’s done, instructions and a list of recipes, and the hamper is complete.

Tom Jnr said: “It’s chalk and cheese. A lot of people feel that turkey is bland and dry, but that’s because of their age. The longer you rear them, the more fat they put on.

“They only put on so much meat, then the fat builds and at 26 weeks they have much more of that so they cook much better and taste much richer.”

The birds are just one day old when they arrive at the farm from the hatchery.

Then the care kicks in, free range, wandering around the farm’s acres, protected by the alpacas and with their own instruments to play as they gobble together in their thousands.

Tom Jnr, like his senior, after studying project drawing and engineering at Bristol UWE, said: “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but during uni I came back and helped out on the farm each summer and then after worked part-time and built up from there, focusing on events and property site management.”

The family own a stretch of land on The Thames at Henley along which both the Henley Regatta and Rewind Festival take place so Tom jnr’s induction into the Copas family events portfolio set a seal on his taking over the family business.

He is now managing director of what is a true family affair.
“I ended up taking on the production of the turkeys and running the office,” he said.

Sisters Tanya, Fenella and Sarah are all part of the set-up along with the rest of the family.

And just recently, they joined TV chef and Michelin-starred, Marlow-based Hand and Flowers owner Tom Kerridge to supply turkeys to his recently opened The Butcher’s Tap.

They also supply Rooks, the wonderful butchers in Holyport and numerous others as well as top restaurants, suppliers and mail order UK-wide and families who turn up in their thousands to collect from the farm, as they will tomorrow, to see Father Christmas and enjoy craols and the festive spirit.

Tom Jnr said: “We have always striven to go further and produce great turkeys. They have a less-stressful life, they live longer and have a happier life.”

The alpacas arrived three years ago and proved their worth almost immediately, protecting the birds from ravaging foxes.Tom jnr said: “Turkeys are curious and very sociable, but are also very easily spooked so we even introduce them to fireworks in the month leading up to Bonfire Night. At first they run, but by just before firework night they are used to them and stay calm.

“We don’t lose any on Bonfire Night as they don’t run and hide and crush each other.

“The birds’ care is everything and through that care people get superior turkey with superior taste at Christmas.”

Ordering for this year’s birds is now over but don’t worry, your turkey will be there next year.