Archive for March 2013

Marketing Starts on the Farm – 2

Newsletter No. 54

Establishing a market for their products is critical to the success of any business. With livestock, it used to be that you would raise your animal and when it was finished, take it to market. Today that is all changing very rapidly, not just in the EU but also in many importing countries as a result of globalisation, which has resulted in food crossing international borders.

Consumer demand today for greater food security and improved animal welfare makes it increasingly difficult for buyers to source livestock through the market system and retain the ablity to offer these securities.  .

The legislation now in place in the EU and many other countries makes it increasingly challenging to provide the full traceability for animals purchased at livestock markets. Buyers today also seek greater consistency and uniformity as well as security of supply.

As at 2013, the recent horsemeat scandal in Europe has raised further awareness and concerns on food security and traceability.

To achieve buyer requirements the larger meat buyers purchase on contract and lay down stringent rearing standards, over and above those laid down by legislation. These rearing standards are not possible to monitor when they have no direct access to the animals while on farm because the first time they are seen is at the market.

These are some of the areas controlled on farm and if not in place, many buyers will not buy the meat.

- Food Safety/Consumer Health
- Animal Welfare
- Residue Monitoring
- Quality
- Disease Control
- Reliability of Supply

This clearly demonstrates why marketing starts on the farm. If all these things are not in place on the farm, then the market is limited if available at all.

It is not easy to place these factors in any particular order of importance because a failure in any one area can halt market availability even if the farm is perfect in all other areas.

The following illustrate these issues and discuss the role of the WOA in establishing protocols, where appropriate, with greatest focus on the areas that are important at farm level.

Food Safety/Consumer Health
In meat production examples of areas that are important to food safety and consumer health are:

  • Unwanted residues in the blood and meat:
    • Antibiotics
    • Growth Hormones
    • Heavy Metals
    • Pesticides
  • Drugs
  • Bacteria infection
  • Bruising
  • Disease of any nature

A visit to the government web sites indicates how important these issues are today.  The increase in globalisation of agriculture and intensification of livestock production has combined to increase the risks to consumers of contaminated product.

The ISO (International Organization for Standardization), which develops voluntary international standards for products and services, defines traceability as the “ability to trace the history, application, or location of that which is under consideration.”  Under EU law, “traceability” means the ability to track any food, feed, food-producing animal or substance that will be used for consumption, through all stages of production, processing and distribution.

Full traceability is becoming increasingly important in the major markets. With livestock, as can be seen, this is not simply from the slaughter plant to the point of sale, but also where born, where grown, what they have eaten throughout their lives, all medical history including treatments.  To achieve this records are required on such things as:

  • Unique Animal identification
  • Location of birth
  • Location during rearing
  • Feed fed throughout their life
    • To trace any potential contamination
    • Use of prohibited ingredients at any time
    • Supplying feed companies required to maintain full records of ingredient sources in each batch of feed
  • Health records
    • Diseases
    • Treatments
    • Vaccinations
  • Transport

Traceability is a way of responding to potential risks that can arise in food and feed, to ensure that all food products are safe to eat.  It is vital that when national authorities or food businesses identify a risk they can trace it back to its source in order to swiftly isolate the problem and prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers.  In addition, traceability allows targeted withdrawals and the provision of accurate information to the public, thereby minimising disruption to trade.

Past food crises such as dioxin contamination and BSE, have illustrated the particular importance of being able to swiftly identify and isolate unsafe foodstuffs in order to prevent them from reaching the consumer.  As at March 2013 the most recent incident is the Horsemeat found in processed foods labelled as beef and pork DNA found in halaal products.

Animal Welfare
The markets of Europe, Britain and North America are becoming increasingly concerned over animal welfare.  The British Domesticated Ostrich Association is working with DEFRA and the RSPCA to lay down basic standards here in Britain .

The WOA has created a set of welfare guidelins that can be used as a foundation for:

  • governments seeking guidance to develop their own codes
  • buyers wanting to set codes
  • certification organisations needing to learn more on ostrich

The gudielines are available at  We will amend and update as experience and data becomes more available.

The following quote from the EU web site: illustrates the importance now placed on having the right procedures in place to ensure meat is free of residues.

Quote: “Residues of Veterinary Medicinal Products - Introduction        

During their lifetime, animals may have to be treated with medicines for prevention or cure of diseases. In food producing animals such as cattle, pigs, poultry and fish this may lead to residues of the substances used for the treatment in the food products derived from these animals (e.g. meat, milk, eggs). The residues should however not be harmful to the consumer.

To guarantee a high level of consumer protection, Community legislation requires that the toxicity of potential residues is evaluated before the use of a medicinal substance in food producing animals is authorised. If considered necessary, maximum residue limits (MRLs) are established and in some cases, the use of the relevant substance is prohibited. The evaluation procedure is laid out in Council Regulation (EC) 2377/90 of 26 June 1990.

Directorate-General Enterprise is responsible for the rules governing medicinal products and the evaluation of residues of pharmacologically active substances used in veterinary medicinal products and for establishment of MRLs in the EU.  End Quote

Countries will have their own rules and regulations to monitor residues within the meat to protect their consumers.  In the EU, each country residue-monitoring plan is expected to follow the EU regulations:  This page provides information for those countries outside the EU wishing to supply the EU.

Residues in the meat result from inputs at the farm, and emphasise the importance of the correct controls on the farm.  These inputs include feed, water and all medication, internal and external.

The aspects of meat quality that are controlled at farm level are discussed in greater detailed in the WOA Factors Influencing Ostrich Meat Quality

  • Age of the animal
  • Nutrition
  • Management Systems

In meat quality, the Nutrition is the most important as the rations fed control the colour, taste, texture and odour of the meat.  They control the animal’s ability to handle stress, and the time required to bring an animal to slaughter.  The younger the animal is slaughter ready, the more tender the meat.

Management systems are also extremely important in controlling meat quality, because any failure in management can result in insufficient feed intake, insufficient water intake, disease control and stress levels.  Insufficient water intake, presence of disease or parasites and stress all result in reduced feed intake and impact on the quality of the meat.

The condition of the animal’s liver and colour of the fat are key indicators of the animals overall health and quality of the meat.  The feed the animal receives directly controls liver condition and fat colour.

Disease Control
The importance of good biosecurity to minimise the risks of disease cannot be over emphasised.  Historically Newcastle Disease (NCD) and Avian Influenza (AI) are probably the diseases that have caused the most disruption to supplies.

An outbreak of NCD or AI in ostrich and/or poultry can shut down movement locally and exports overnight.  AI ended the Israeli Ostrich industry, even though it was not present in their ostrich flock as they were totally dependent on the export market for meat sales as the local population are unable to eat ostrich meat.  Over the years NCD and AI has severely affected the South African industry because they had built their meat sales on the export market.   Australia has also experienced total closure to exports for an extended period because of NCD in poultry.

Chick Mortality has also caused many difficulties in continuity of supply:

Quote "Chick mortality is a serious destroyer with devastating and varied financial implications.   For the last two decades, in all surveys and opinion polls, the vagaries of chick mortality have been listed as enemy number one."  End Quote [1]

There are a number of reasons for chick mortality and these should be clearly understood to ensure correct management to minimise these losses.

Disease disrupts the supply to the market.

Reliability of Supply
Most restaurants set their menus for several months at a time (many for as long as 6 months) and once let down markets are harder to recover.  They cannot afford to to be let down in delivery.

Supermarkets will not tolerate empty shelf space.  Unreliable supplies will result in lost contracts.  Disease is one of the major causes of lack of supply, either as a result of export bans or as a result of high chick mortality.

One other major cause for lack of supply witnessed in Ostrich over the years is the unreliability of egg numbers laid and conversion of those eggs to day old chicks and then survival to slaughter.  Farm management systems must be in place to optimise the numbers of eggs laid and the conversion of those eggs to slaughter birds to ensure continuity and reliability of the supply to the market.

The above illustrates just why marketing starts at the farm.


[1] The South African National Agricultural Marketing Council “Report on the Investigation of the effects of Deregulation of the South African Ostrich Industry” page 33.

The Greatest Threat to our Industry

Newsletter No. 53 - Item 1

These words were written in 2007

A major buyer for Ostrich meat, who has always strived to obtain quality meat, made this statement:

The greatest threat to our industry is the poor quality ostrich meat we continually see

The buyer of a major supermarket chain has stated they are not interested in placing ostrich meat on their shelves again as a direct result of past negative experiences, proving just how true that statement is.  Those negative experiences included consumer resistance and the refusal of the supplier to change their methods of production to meet their customer needs. The supplier implied that the skin is the primary product and they were unable to make those changes, as the changes would have a negative effect on the skins.

A report of the “First International Ostrich Meat Congress” that took place at the end of February 1997 in Oudtshoorn made up item 2 in this newsletter - see below.  The ostrich mailing list was new and very active at the time.  Prior to going to this conference, members of the list were asked for their thoughts on the slow development of the markets, as it was an excellent channel of communication within the industry.

The issues list members had raised were discussed since they were clearly concerns of all those on the front line marketing and hoped would continue to be addressed.  10 years on, the industry faces the same challenges.  If anything, it is worse.

Item 2b discusses the dangers of bad consumer experiences.  Hearing major buyers complaining of the same thing 10 years later indicates that as an industry this serious threat remains a major issue that the industry continues to fail to address on a large enough scale.

Report of First International Ostrich Meat Congress – February, 1997
Published on the ostrich list on 3rd March 1997

Last week NOPSA - The National Ostrich Processors Association of South Africa (NOPSA) hosted The First International Ostrich Meat Congress in Oudtshoorn.  There were 120 delegates from 21 countries.  The week should be seen as a major event in the history of the Ostrich Industry.  It was not a week of delegates simply sitting and listening to a number of papers presented by various speakers - but was an opportunity for those attending to contribute in general discussion.

Three major areas were covered - The Meat (the individual muscles, their names, grades by tenderness etc.), Marketing Strategy and Hides.  The delegates were also given a tour of the Abattoir, Tannery and various farms in the area.

a. The Meat
As a result of the confusion in the market as to the names and degree of tenderness of different muscles it was agreed that an internationally accepted standard should be set.  An international subcommittee was formed.  Before we departed, the Catalogue numbers of each muscle and Latin names had been agreed.  The grading of several muscles and some trade names are still to be agreed.  There is to be a further meeting of the sub committee to me held in Europe to finalise these matters.

Dr. F. Mellet of Stellenbosch University reported on the pH values of the meat and the Anatomy of the muscles.  He noted that the Ostrich shows characteristics of Birds, Mammals and Reptiles.

The statement was made by one speaker that the industry is rapidly moving from the Hides as the primary product, with the meat the by-product to The Meat as the primary Product with the hides the by-product.

b. Marketing Strategy
A good deal of time was attributed to this important subject.   Some statistics were presented on current numbers of birds being slaughtered, number of approved export abattoirs, numbers of birds etc.  However, it was noted that these were compiled with limited data.   Statistics were also shown on the dramatic growth of the Turkey and Chicken Industries in relation to the total meat market.  It was noted that it would take 15million slaughter birds to satisfy 15% of the European market alone.  The conclusion: there is plenty of room for every one and great potential for growth.

There was an excellent presentation covering what the housewife/consumer is looking for, what makes the consumer buy the product and how to create an international awareness.  Great emphasis was also given to the fact that there will be many people over the next few years buying Ostrich for the first time.  If the product is not good and that first experience is a bad one - that consumer may well never try the product again.  It was noted that there has been an inconstancy in the product in the past, which must be addressed.  This inconsistency is most probably a combination of the variety of ages of slaughter birds, the effects of diet, variety in classification between countries of the various muscles etc.

The price, presentation and colour of the meat were also aspects mentioned.  The health aspects were seen as a major priority - the speaker highlighted the fact that we have a free range meat, that the market wants animals reared on feed free of meat source proteins, routine antibiotics, growth hormones etc.

An International Ostrich Association will be formed to promote the industry.  It will prepare the International Meat Buyers Guide along with other sales literature, videos etc.  It will generate and sustain general public awareness campaigns.   The funding will be a combination of levies, profit from sale of promotional materials and any other means that may seem appropriate from time to time.  Some of the funding will go towards research and development.  The levies will be collected by the National Associations - part to be handed across to the International Association with some retained by the National Associations to promote within their individual country as each country has its own unique culture.

Delegates were warned that any bad press or experience regarding Ostrich will reflect on the industry - the consumer does not think of where that Ostrich was - simply the name Ostrich.  It is essential to work together to ensure the quality and consistency of standards.

c. Ostrich Leather
Whilst this was primarily an Ostrich Meat Congress, this important product was certainly not ignored.  The current grading of Ostrich skins was covered in detail.  Mr. Kriek of the KKLK informed the delegates that the industry often complains that the grading is too kind to the producer - but it has been agreed to retain the standard for the next 2 years at least.  It was acknowledged that there are a number of new producers now in the market and there will be a learning curve to achieve the required quality.

Discussion took place on the effect of slaughter age on the hide.  It was acknowledged that the 10mth skin of a well-fed bird is very acceptable and that the 14mth slaughter age has arisen to satisfy the requirements of the feather trade.  There was considerable discussion on the potential effect on price of an increasing number hides and of lower grade skins possibly coming onto the market.  Examples were given of uses of these hides, which no other leather could compete with, therefore allowing the hides to retain a high value.  An analogy was made with the wine industry.  You will have your very high value wines, the plonks and many in-between – all made from the one product - the Grape.

All delegates visited the Tannery and were shown a large range of skins - of differing grades.  A good deal of excellent discussion took place between the delegates during this visit.

The Congress was closed by the South African Minister of Agriculture - Mr. D. Hanekom.  He passed on the message to the South African Industry that he offered his full support to the development of the industry.  He also announced that legislation is now going through to allow the Import and Export of genetic material.

Note the fact that this was 1997 and it was accepted then that skins from 10 month birds (42 weeks old) are acceptable and that the feather industry was driving the later slaughter.  Slaughter birds as late as 60 weeks is simply not commercially viable for a producer producing good quality meat.

2013: That footnote was published in 2007.  This article discussed a conference that took place in South Africa in 1997 just 3 years after the South African industry was deregulated and the early countries to import ostrich were facing the challenge from importing the foundation birds and transition to commercial production.

Marketing Starts on the Farm

Newsletter No. 52 - Item 2

This statement “Ethical food store opens with £12 ostrich eggs” was the headline of a link published in this newsletter.  The link is no longer active, but discussed the Wholefoods Store that had recently opened their first store in England.  I went onto report: 

When I visited the store last weekend (June 2007) there were no ostrich eggs and Rhea eggs were £25.00.  The Rhea eggs were yellow in colour, instead of a good off-white colour.

This particular store’s marketing differentiation is their very high standards of animal welfare and all produce free from the many negatives that have increasingly become associated with food production in recent years.  Their standards demonstrate clearly how food marketing today starts on the farm and is a partnership from the farm to the plate.    Readers can view those welfare standards here.

GlobalGAP is a global standards certification scheme that many major buyers utilise. Newsletters 10, 23 and 42 have discussed the importance of quality marks and introduction of best practice.

One problem with ostrich production is that many become involved with no vision for the market.  Producing meat and placing it in store with the hope of finding a market later is unlikely to work in today’s market place because, as can be seen with the increasing use of accreditation and quality standard schemes, you need your market established first.  You need to know  your market demands and then produce to the standards they require.  This is more challenging with Ostrich, as it is a new market in every country, with many buyers interested, but little understanding of the product.

March 2013:  Wholefoods published the following press release "Whole Foods (WFM) Plans to Label All Products Disclosing GMOs by 2018" earlier this month.  It will take them that long to establish the full reliable supply chain where they have total control in the volumes they require and able to guarantee their products as free from GM ingredients.  This move is driven by consumer demand to enable them to make informed choices about the food they consume.  This move further illustrats of how "marketing starts on the farm".

Newly Hatched Chicks and Early access to Feed

Newsletter No. 50 Item 4

A quote from the article published here:

Quote:  The small intestine of the newly-hatched chick is immature and undergoes significant morphological, biochemical, and molecular changes during the 2 week post-hatch.

The timing and form of nutrients supplied post-hatch is critical for development of intestines. It has been shown that early access to feed accelerates the rate of yolk utilization and enhances growth of the intestinal tract.

Usual hatchery practices result in a 24-72 hr transition between hatching and placing of chicks on the farm. The delayed access to feed can lead to a depression in intestinal function, which may negatively affect subsequent performance of birds.

Studies have also shown that providing developing embryo with exogenous nutrients (in ovo feeding) may enhance intestinal tract development and lead to higher body weight in ovo fed chicks. End quote

The issues raised in this discussion are:

  • The importance of chick access to feed as soon as possible after hatch
  • The reduced performance of chicks as a direct result of the delay when provision of feed is delayed due to the time taken from hatching to transfer to rearing farm.
  • Studies proving that improved breeder feed to enhance embryo development in the egg may lead to higher body weight in chicks at hatch.

These issues are all very relevant for Ostrich production and confirm again the critical importance of adequate breeder nutrition.


Breeding for Meat Quality and High Yield Products

Newsletter No 50 - Item 3

Breeding for Meat Quality and High Yield Products is an article written by a major poultry genetic specialist company.  The introduction states:

Quote: At Cobb, we understand how the quality of these traits impacts on our customers’ profits and for the last two decades we have invested millions of dollars in developing a higher yielding broiler, with breast meat yield increasing 6% of live weight. Our research and development team will continue progressing to keep pace with demands for increased yield and meat quality as well as various aspects of fillet shape, all in an effort to increase white meat yield and sizing yields for our customers. End Quote

This article is discussing the increased weight of breast meat as a percentage of liveweight because it is more valuable than the leg and wing meat.  Take the Fan – OS1046 as an example with Ostrich as a high value muscle because its size makes it a very versatile muscle.  This muscle currently varies enormously and the longer, deeper framed birds will produce a much larger Fan than birds of a more torpedo shape and poor frame development.  The article “The Potential Meat Yield of Ostrich” proves that as an industry, we can more than double the current average meat yields of ostrich and we can do it in many fewer days to slaughter than is the current average.

Feeding Broiler Breeders for Chick Quality

Newsletter No. 50 Item 2

Aviagen is one of the largest poultry companies in the world.  All are aware of the tremendous advances made in the efficiency of poultry production.  Their article entitled Feeding Broiler Breeders for Chick Quality discusses nutritional aspects to achieve high production on chicken that of course do not apply to Ostrich.  However, the introduction to this article is as relevant in ostrich production.

Quote: "For a chick to fulfil its genetic potential as a broiler chicken, it is imperative that it has the best possible start in life. End Quote

For successful broiler production, a chick requires good bodyweight, with excellent nutritional reserves at day old. It needs to be in excellent health with a fully functioning immune system. From this starting point, providing the broiler with suitable environment and nutrition will enable optimal performance to be achieved.

The developing embryo and the hatched chick are completely dependent for their growth and development on nutrients deposited in the egg. Consequently, the physiological status of the chick at hatching is greatly influenced by the nutrition of the breeder hen.

In reviewing breeder nutrition, it should be remembered that nutrient supply to the broiler breeder is a sum of two parts, namely nutrient content of the diet and quantity of feed supplied to the breeder birds. Both parts need to be balanced to ensure correct daily nutrient supply.End Quote

The importance of adequate breeder nutrition can never be underestimated, it is critical to the success of chick rearing and the commercial viability of any livestock production industry.

Quote: “It is also very important to realise that the cost of feeding the breeder appropriately to ensure good nutritional status of the chick is very low when viewed on a per chick basis and compared with the total feed cost of raising a broiler to slaughter weight. Calini (2006) calculated that the cost of breeder feed contributing to the production of a chick is equivalent to only 7% of the total feed cost for a broiler grown to 2.5Kg. This illustrates the value of ensuring the best possible nutrition of the breeder". End quote

The lack of adequate nutrients provided to our Ostrich breeders currently a significant problem with Ostrich production.  It is the number one reason that conversion of eggs to chicks is very poor, chick mortality high, food conversion poor and too many days taken to reach slaughter weight – adding significantly to costs of production.

The paper “Cutting the Costs of Production” demonstrates how the breeder feed costs per chick can be more than halved even if the cost per kilo of breeder feed is doubled to provide adequate nutrients from the right sources.  This is the impact of Ostrich’s low daily intake of feed and their high production potential when the nutritional base of the feed is formulated in a “production livestock” manner.

For our industry to become competitive, all producers must recognise the need to feed breeders adequately to achieve the full genetic potential.

Scientific Referencing

Newsletter No 50 Item 1

Quote:  References are very much a double-edged sword, or perhaps a bazooka. In the wrong hands, they can do far more harm than good. And in the, essentially, unchecked system that we now have, one careless reference can end up taking on a life of its own. It gets stuck in the medical information ‘machine' replicating itself like some malevolent computer virus, gradually infecting all data and turning it into useless mush. End Quote

A medical doctor, Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, made this statement discussing issues as they affect our health, but the statement is true in many fields of science.  Over the years, we have warned of the problems scientific referencing has created in our ostrich industry.

Research in ostrich production only started in the late 1980s.  We witnessed a number of scientists entering the industry, as Ostrich appeared to offer excellent career prospects as a new industry, developing globally.  During the early to mid 90s, there was a proliferation of papers published by scientists.  Very few were peer-reviewed, and even if peer-reviewed, any hypothesis or experimentation had not had the test of time to prove the accuracy in practice.

As Ostrich developed into new countries, the scientists in these countries would look for any information published on ostrich as they assumed the published data was proven accurate. The practice of referencing in this way has contributed to the ongoing publications of misinformation as it applies to ostrich.

Footnote 2013:  Since this item was first published a number of young South African scientists have continued to publish papers.  When examined one can see they continue to reference the same past papers without questioning if those early assumptions could possibly be flawed and therefore require testing.   They do not question if they could be a possible cause for the continued poor production performance of ostrich.

Processing Costs

Newsletter 48 - Item 3

Newsletter No. 48 discussed processing costs in relation to the country report in Item 1.   Processing is made up of a number of processes and it is important to know which processes are included and at what stage of the process the meat is packaged when costs are quoted to avoid confusion:

-  Slaughter
-  Deboning
-  Muscling Out
-  Deskinning/Demembraning
-  Portioning and other value adding

The following are other factors that influence the costs of processing and need factoring in when costing production.

Other factors that influence processing costs:


  • World production of ostrich remains at a fraction of single production units in other specie which places significant challenges to achieve efficiencies of scale
  • Many are slaughtering very low volumes in multi-specie plants. Management of these slaughter plants will expect to slaughter those birds with sufficient return to make it worth their while.

Staff slaughtering ostrich irregularly:

  • operate more slowly than staff slaughtering ostrich daily
  • make more errors when deskinning (damage to skin and/or muscles)
  • Insufficient volume to optimise a full day's slaughter
  • Equipment is not suitable for ostrich

Regular throughput:

  • South Africa has some of the lowest ostrich slaughter costs, yet a major complaint of abattoir managers is producers cancelling booked delivery of birds at the last minute leaving a plant with reduced numbers at best or no slaughter for the day at worst
  • This has serious knock on effect to the supply chain to customers

Ostrich is seasonal

Egg laying is seasonal.  Past records demonstrate that production systems impact on the length of the laying season. Growing volume will enable further research to quantify the impact of not only production systems but also daylight length at the different latitudes on extending the seasonaly influence on the egg laying time.

Meat Quality and Grading Meat

Newsletter 49 - Item 2

The WOA published a document “Factors Influencing Meat Quality”.  The document covers 10 sections that indicate how many things influence the quality of meat.  The influences are the same for any meat production specie and cover many factors throughout the production chain.  The following graphic comes from the book “Garth Pig Stockmanship Standards” and illustrates well just how many production factors influence meat quality.

Meat Quality

Nutrition, in excess of 60% of the input costs of any commercial livestock production, is at the very top as it has the greatest influence.  Many of the factors referenced are dependent on the correct nutrition.  A breakdown in any one of those factors influences the quality of the meat as received by the consumer.

A visitor recently published this message to the American Ostrich Association public forum on their web site.  The message illustrates again the importance of consistent quality, especially when introducing a totally new meat specie to the marketplace.

Quote: I recently purchased several cuts of ostrich. I am writing an article on ostrich and would feel bad if I didn't at least try to put a positive spin on it. But I cooked the filet to medium as I read was necessary for ostrich and I couldn't take how tough it was. The roast was almost inedible. I tried again by pressure cooking it like I do with tough beef cuts. It just broke down into smaller tough pieces. I haven't touched the ground ostrich. What am I doing wrong? Any cooking suggestions or recipes would be appreciated. Thank you. End quote

One factor missing from the above graphic is ‘age at slaughter’.  It is very possible that this lady purchased meat from an old breeder bird.  There are many reasons why meat can be tough.

The WOA has produced a Carcass Grading System that requires understanding and utilisation for all actively involved in our industry.  Grading a product differentiates quality and enables the setting of prices according to quality.  Grading also enables our customers to identify the level of quality they are purchasing.

Principles of Production Agriculture

Newsletter 48

Newsletter No. 47 included reports from South Africa, United States, Australia, Israel, Turkey.  Newsletter No 48  included a short report from Australia and New Zealand that referenced production dropping significantly over the past few years listing a few reasons.  The following is an analysis and discussion on those reports.

Analysis and discussion
The report from Australia and NewZealand identified 3 major issues as a cause, but all 3 interrelate and are interdependent on each other.

a)  lack of ‘production agriculture’ principals
b)  lack of consistent quality produced
c)  lack of consistent markets

Consistent markets are dependent on a consistent supply and products of marketable quality and consistent quality.  That all starts with the farm production methods.

The ostrich industry produces extremely variable muscles sizes, meat colour and unreliable supplies.  Pig, Poultry and Beef production has become extremely efficient over the past few decades, with producers able to provide the markets with the products they demand.  That is in contrast to producing the products and then expecting the market to take it regardless.

To put this statement into perspective, the author commented that "Just last week I received communication from a producer in his third or fourth season.  He was concerned because he has a market for his produce, but his hens are not laying eggs".  The markets are there once the industry addresses the management issues required to achieve consistent production.  Are You Setting Your Goals High Enough discussed this very topic.

Principles of “Production Agriculture”
The report referenced the need to adapt to “production agriculture” principles as this is essential to achieve the consistent markets, product quality and supply cost effectively.  There is a need to learn from the mainstream industries and adapt the principles to ostrich.  A number of years ago I attended an international conference where a nutritionist’s opening statement was:

Your ostrich breeders consume nearly one tonne of feed every year - that is a lot of feed - you need to ensure it is cheap.

In contrast I made the statement also as a speaker on Ostrich nutrition:

Given their production potential, your breeder birds eat very little so you need to ensure that feed carries sufficient nutrients to support their production potential.

The important element is to ensure the breeder feed is “productive” and able to support the full genetic egg production potential of the hens and production of strong semen in the males.  That in turn results in:

  • High fertility, with excellent hatchability - thus reducing significantly the costs of incubation and overall costs of day old chicks (see figure 1)
  • Strong chicks require less heat in cold weather or reduced cooling in hot climates
  • Strong chicks have an improved immune system
  • Strong chicks convert feed at a faster rate and therefore achieve slaughter weight with quality skins months earlier
  • Strong chicks converting feed efficiently produce increased meat yields
  • Increased meat yields reduce processing costs per kilo
  • Chicks maturing earlier have increased percentage of Grade 1 skins
  • Earlier Puberty

The above are all possible provided the chicks also receive feed of “high productive value” and accompanied by "high management standards".

With all these factors correctly in place, the birds are able to optimise their genetic potential and that triggers the implementation of genetic improvement programs and thus enabling an upward spiral of improving performance.

These are the principles of “production agriculture” that has enabled the mainstream livestock specie to become so efficient in recent decades and produce low cost meat.

Chick Feed Costs
Figure 1 - Chick Feed Cost Comparisons
[Source: Cutting The Costs of Production]