By Lance E. Gegner, Attra regime Specialist, National center for Appropriate modern technology - This publishing discusses the background of ratite production as an alternative livestock enterprise, and goes into numerous of the problems a beginning producer demands to think about before beginning to advanced ratites. It additionally lists ratite-related associations, websites, magazines, and books.

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Ratite Production: Ostrich, Emu and Rhea - by Lance E. Gegner, Attra routine Specialist, National center for Appropriate an innovation - This publication discusses the history of ratite manufacturing as an different livestock enterprise, and goes into many of the issues a beginning producer needs to consider before beginning to raise ratites. It likewise lists ratite-related associations, websites, magazines, and also books.
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Introduction

The Ratite family consists of flightless birds v a flat,keelless breastbone (the keel is where the flight musclesconnect). Most of their muscle is in your legs and thighs.In the wild, ratites eat seeds, herbaceous plants, insects,and tiny rodents. Ostriches, rheas, and emus are the ratitesmost generally raised together livestock in the united States.Ratites produce red meat the is comparable to beef or venison,and the hide renders fine animal leather products. The birds adapt tomost climates, so long as they room given proper protection andmanagement. Various other ratites less frequently raised in the UnitedStates space the cassowary indigenous Australia and brand-new Guinea, andthe kiwi from new Zealand.

RegulationsOstriches

The ostrich, the world’s biggest bird and also one that the earliest (having existed as a species for over 40million years), is adjusted to life in open, arid country. Four distinctive geographic subspecies arerecognized, varying from the Arabian and Saharan deserts southward transparent Africa. The twosubspecies imported to the United states are the Red Neck of north Africa and also the smaller BlueNeck of southerly Africa. The an initial ostrich farm was established in 1838 in south Africa, and also that countryis still the leading producer that ostriches. Southern Africa protects its ostrich industry by prohibitingthe violin of productive ostriches and also eggs.The ostrich is the just bird that has two toes; the other ratites have three or four. Ostriches can live upto 75 years, with 50 years being the average. Adult males deserve to reach eight feet in height and weigh asmuch as 400 pounds. The masculine is black, through white wing tips and tail plumes. The woman is somewhatsmaller than the male and also duller in color, v light-brown and also gray plumage. Young birds aremottled brown, and molt number of times before attaining adult plumage.The ostrich will certainly start breeding at about two to 3 years of age and may proceed for as much as 20 years.Ostriches will set up breeding “attachments,” generally pairs or one male and also two females. Ostricheswill start laying eggs approximately the very first of April and also continue laying together late together the end of August. Eggsare laid about every other day, with an mean of about 40 egg laid per year. Incubation take away about42 days.

Rheas

The rhea, native to southern America, is smaller than the ostrich but comparable in appearance, through featherednecks and also heads yet with 3 toes. Rheas reach 4 to 5 feet in height and weigh 50 to 80pounds. The rhea family consists of two different species: the white rhea and also the typical or grayrhea (gray or irradiate brown through white bottom). Rheas will certainly start reproduction at about two to four years ofage, through males having actually up to five mates. Egg-laying usually starts about the an initial of May and also continuesthrough the start of August. The number of eggs per year varies from 20 come 60. The incubationperiod is 32 come 42 days. Production practices for rheas are generally the very same as because that ostriches.However, distinctions do exist, so it is best to gain as much details information top top rheas as possiblebefore beginning production.

Emus

The emu, native to Australia, can reach 5 to 6 feet in height and weigh up to 140 pounds. Its lifespan is between 30 and also 40 years, and it start its reproduction cycle at around two to 3 years that age.Production techniques for emus differ just slightly from those for ostriches. Emus breed and lay eggsmainly throughout the winter months, while ostriches and also rheas breed and also lay eggs in late spring, summer,and at an early stage fall. Sometimes beginning as beforehand as October and ending as late as June, the females layan egg about once every 3 days, and also will lay, top top average, 25 eggs per year. The emu has darkgreeneggs the cannot it is in candled (examined in prior of irradiate to examine fertility and chick growth)during incubation. Incubation is around 50 days.

Production Practices

There are numerous things come consider prior to beginning ratite production. An option of reproduction stock, penand structure construction, nutritional requirements for various period groups, wellness practices, handlingand hauling that birds, incubation of eggs, and brooding and care of newly hatched and juvenilechicks are several of the problems that need attention. A Producer “Info-Pak” Manual, designed come provideintroductory info to new producers, is available complimentary of charge from the Ostrich Associationof Alberta (Canada) in ~ http://www.ostrich.ca/pages/infopk.htm. Another resource of freeintroductory information is the Oklahoma State Ostrich book located at http://www.cvm.okstate.edu/instruction/kocan/ostrich/ostbk2.htm.In addition, Alberta’s to adjust of Agriculture, Food, and Rural advancement has two brand-new publicationson the commercial ostrich and emu industry. These have wonderful information on marketing,production, and also economics, consisting of budgets. It need to be remembered that dollar amounts arestated in Canadian dollars, right now valued at around 66 cent to the U.S. Dollar. Commercial OstrichIndustry deserve to be discovered at http://www.agric.gov.ab.ca/agdex/400/484_830_1.html. Advertising EmuIndustry deserve to be found at http://www.agric.gov.ab.ca/agdex/400/484_830_2.html.Additional information on the various aspects of ratite production is available from ratite associations,books, websites, videos, and also magazines (see additional Resources).

Marketing Options

The industry for ostriches, emus, and rheas is minimal and variable. The birds are no longer being soldonly for reproduction stock or, favor cassowaries, as exotic pets. A commercial market for meat, hides,feathers, and emu oil is developing. The variety of slaughtering facilities and also marketing cooperativesin the U.S. Is increasing. Some national and also state associations, and also other groups (seeFurther Resources), list industry reports on your websites.Meat native ostriches and also emus is acquiring recognition in the restaurant trade as a very lean red meatsimilar to beef or venison. However, ratite meat has actually a limited market depth, and also must complete withbeef, chicken, and pork for customer acceptance. Ostrich hide has a well-established market, butemu hide tan is no as consistent, therefore the market is smaller. Emu oil is obtaining attention in thecosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, yet ostrich oil has no market as of yet. Every emu, whenslaughtered, can yield five or an ext liters the fat. When properly rendered, emu oil is a deep-penetratingoil that deserve to be supplied as a moisturizer, or as a therapy for muscle aches.Even though the price of ratites has reduced greatly over the last few years together the sector shiftsfrom a more restricted breeding industry to a commercial market, the death or theft that a bird have the right to still bea financial blow. Learning how to progressive ratites is time-consuming and will more than likely be very difficultfor someone v no other livestock experiences. However, the cost of manufacturing is dropping, as therate that egg-laying every breeder bird increases, and also as a bigger survival price to slaughter age is attained.With far better production and also culling practices, an ext producers will be able to make a benefit sellingtheir ratites. Some producers are beginning to split facets of production with other producers come improveefficiency; one specializes in egg hatching and brooding, when the various other specializes in feedingbirds for slaughter.Anyone interested in obtaining into the ratite service should exercise substantial caution, and also notexpect to do big, quick profits. Think about ratite manufacturing as a very risky, long-term enterprise. Itwould it is in hazardous come borrow a lot of money or use retirement accumulation to begin any high-risk business.Before starting a ratite enterprise, carefully calculate the costs and also returns possible, and decidewhether the potential return on invest compares with alternative options, such together savings, stocks,or shared funds. The ratite market will continue to be really risky till the meat i do not care a morestable niche product because that restaurants and also is accessible from various other non-specialty industries such as groceries and fast-food restaurants.The brand-new ratite producer should discover an created producer to job-related with. The developed producercan extend an important advice and assist in setup up and also beginning the new operation. The is essential towork with producers who have the right to be trusted and are willing to work with the new producer. The is especiallyhard because that inexperienced buyers to referee the high quality of birds themselves. Countless inexperiencedand even experienced producers have bought birds that are not the the intended quality, or to be tooclosely related to be good breeding stock. The is straightforward to shed a many money ~ above an inappropriate purchase.SOME MARKETING alternatives TO take into consideration ARE:

SALE come PROCESSOR because that SLAUGHTERSALE OF reproduction STOCK TO other PRODUCERSSALE OR purchase OF YOUNG bird TO RAISE for SLAUGHTERSTARTING OR joining A MARKETING COOPERATIVEPROCESSING THE BIRDS and also DIRECT-MARKETING THE PRODUCTS

It is an extremely important to study your marketing alternatives and think about such determinants as market stability;cost of production including both variable and fixed costs; and state and also federal regulations.

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Conclusion

It is an extremely important the all elements of the ratite organization are researched because a many money, personaltime, and energy will certainly be invested right into this 365-day-per-year enterprise. There will be rewards andprofits for effective breeders; there space also good potential risks and also many challenges in startingany new business enterprise. The bottom line is: Projected revenue should be better than the costs ofproducing the birds. The capability to develop birds is important, however the ability to market them have to bethe an essential factor in her decision come undertake this enterprise. Make certain the birds developed can be soldat a profit.

References:

1) Derfler, Philip S. 2001. Ratite and also squab mandatory inspection. Attachments to FSIS constituent Update, April 20, 2001. April 18. . 2 p.2) Penrose, Chris and also Dean Slates. 1999. Pasturing ostriches & emus. Exceptional Graze. May. . P 2-3.October 2001