Archive for April 2013

Managing risk in feed prices directly

Newsletter No. 62 - Item 4

There are an increasing number of reports and articles written to advise producers on how to manage the effects of the increasing feed prices as they represent the highest single input cost. When prices are under pressure, it is always tempting to work with feed ingredients that do not have adequate nutrients to support optimum health and commercial levels of production. The top producers in mainstream livestock know that certain ingredients must be included in their diets, or they risk production dropping to uneconomic levels. These current conditions are putting increasing pressure on establishing the right balance.

One of the major problems with Ostrich production was the belief that ostrich can obtain energy from fibre and thus poor quality ingredients can be used. During a conference in 1998 the delegates were taken to a very large breeder farm. The farm was new and boasting to be the largest breeder farm in the country. The manager of the farm correctly stated that they see their breeders as production units and went onto tell us that their rations contained 50% straw. I do not know how many years the farm lasted, but it was not many. There are very few nutrients in straw, so the rations simply could not provide commercial levels of production and possible no production at all with 50% straw in a ration. With ostrich, because the daily intake of feed is low in proportion to their body weight, the ingredients used need to provide as many nutrients as possible within their class (e.g. forage, protein, grains) and those nutrients need to be available (digestible). The aim of commercial production units is to identify the ingredients that are essential to support commercial levels of production and then securing the supply and purchasing those ingredients at the best prices possible.

The following quote is from a document published this month (April 2008) for our British Pig producers entitled “Global Feed Commodities Market - Its Impact on the British Pig Industry and Risk Management Strategies to Mitigate This”. This quotation is discussing using forward buying as one mechanism for gaining better control over feed prices. This is the way larger producers manage their ingredient sourcing and provides an indication of the challenges facing Ostrich production while operations are small, fragmented and failing to work in collaboration. The right ingredients are essential for commercial production, but very expensive when purchased in low volume and on the open market.

Managing risk in feed prices directly
Buying forward cover

• This is a common practice among intensive livestock farmers, although it is not without its risks. To buy forward at a time when the value of the finished product is static or rising may well make good sense since it locks a major element of total costs at a known level which will leave a profit or at least limit any short term losses.
• Equally, if a short term contract has been taken, when it comes up for renewal at a time when cereal and protein prices have been rising while output values have not improved, there could be a sudden jump in costs against static output values resulting once again in reduced profit or a shift to trading losses. It is this last combination of circumstances in which the industry now finds itself at the beginning of 2008.

Using forward grain markets and Options
• Buyers of feed can buy an Option to buy wheat at a given price. If the market goes up, they exercise the option to buy at the lower price, thus effectively locking in to a maximum feed price. Should the market fall, they ‘tear up’ their Option contract, write off the cost of it, and buy at the lower price in the market.
• In the case of livestock feed, the business which buys the Option to buy feed ingredients could be either the pig farmer or his feed compounder. In the latter case the feed manufacturer will pass on the costs of the arrangement, no doubt including administration, to their customer, but at least both parties know that they can trade with each other for the duration of the arrangement without worrying about what the grain market is doing.

Managing risk through collaboration in the supply chain
• Fixed price contracts. These involve negotiating a price based on known feed costs and other costs in the chain which leave a modest margin for efficient operators and offer the opportunity for the more efficient to prosper further.
• Sale contracts linked to commodity prices. To reduce the risk of either or both parties to a fixed price contract being locked in to an unfavourable arrangement for any length of time, they may wish to consider a contractual arrangement with flexibility built in. An example of this would be linking finished pigs to wheat prices, for example the HGCA spot price on a given day, or the London International Financial Futures Exchange (Liffe) futures price for wheat..

Optimising Resources – Alfalfa

Newsletter No. 62 - Item 3

Any discussion on feed ingredients and optimising the use of resources has to include the important role of Alfalfa. At a time when there are concerns regarding world shortages of water, Table 1 shows comparison in water use efficiencies of several crops. The table illustrates how the complete alfalfa plant [100%] provides productive nutrients. Productive ostrich grower/finisher rations contain as much as 40% alfalfa, provided the alfalfa is of the right quality. Quality alfalfa provides a unique blend of nutrients in a highly digestible form, when fed as part of a correctly balanced ration.

Water Efficiency Comparisons

Table 1 Water Efficiency Comparisons [source:Alfalfa Wildlife and the Environment, UC Davis]

Figure 1 demonstrates the deep roots of Alfalfa by comparison to Corn. Alfalfa roots go as deep as 3-5 meters (9-16ft). This ensures that very little irrigation water is lost.

Alfalfa Root

Figure 1 - Comparative Root Depths [source: Alfalfa Wildlife and the Environment, UC Davis]

The following are a few other areas where the extensive roots of Alfalfa provides environmental benefits:

- Prevents Erosion
- Encourages water infiltration
- Biological activity within the soil
- Improved nutrient cycling
- Improvement in water use efficiency in some following crops

Further benefits of Alfalfa to soil health :

- Reduced Cultivation over grain crops
- Reduced Runoff
- Weed Suppression
- Low Pesticide Use
- Alfalfa 'Rhuzophere'
- Improved Soil tilth
- Provision of N to subsequent crops
- Reduction in energy needs in food production
- Important part of sustainable cropping systems
- Enriches Wildlife Habitat
- Incredible Insectary
- Help Solves Environment Problems

Optimising Resources – Production

Newsletter No. 62 Item 3a

Improving production performance offers the greatest opportunities for optimising resources. Some examples:

Breeders consume approximately 2,300 kilograms of feed per trio per annum. Genetically ostrich can produce 100 and more eggs, but only when the kilos of feed have the nutrients to support the genetic production potential. To provide feed that cannot achieve the genetic potential is a significant waste of resources and it is often found that they consume more feed when the nutrients are falling short. The objective is to maximise egg production and ensure that as high a percentage as possible convert to slaughter birds or future breeders. As table 1 illustrates, the greater the production per breeder, the less feed is required to produce each chick.


Table 1 - Comparative Breeder Feed Required Per Chick Hatched

Clearly production output per trio affects not only the amount of feed required to produce a single chick, it also impacts on water, land and infrastructure costs.

The same principles apply to Slaughter birds – the faster slaughter birds are finished, the lower the feed requirements, water, land and infrastructure. This example includes feed intake to 420 days (14 months) as this remains the preferred slaughter age in South Africa.


Table 2 - Slaughter Bird Feed Intake Comparisons based on Days Taken to Reach Slaughter Weight

Figure 1 illustrates this graphically to again emphasise the importance of achieving slaughter weights at younger ages in order to not only improve commercial performance but also to optimise the use of resources.


Figure 1 - Comparative Feed Consumption Dependent on Days To Slaughter

Even when grazing ostrich, the grazed feed must always be factored in to the overall costs of production and optimal use of resources.

Saving Feed Costs with Faster Growth

Newsletter No. 61 - Item 4

The following is the header for an article in Feed Formulator, published this week. (2013 note:  This article was published in 2008 but the principles discussed remain important today as the are the basis of commercial livestock production):

Quote: Improving growth rate in finishing pigs by as little as 70 g per day can help hard-pressed pig producers increase returns by £2.86 per pig, amounting to over £30,000 for the annual output from a 500-sow herd, according to Ed Sutcliffe, technical director of ACMC. End Quote

Putting this statement into perspective for ostrich, Figure 1 below illustrates meat yield comparisons and days taken to slaughter. The graphic depicts the current industry average slaughter weights and larger meat birds, which followed the scientific model that the scientists at Stellenbosch University graphed in 1992 as the potential growth of ostrich (explained here). The green area depicts the additional meat that results from the increased weight. The graph demonstrates that at 200 days, the birds have as much meat as the current average birds at 360 days. That is 160 days less feed, revenue received 160 days earlier and less infrastructure required to maintain birds for an additional 160 days.

160 Days less feed is a reduction in feed cost per bird of approximately US$50/bird. Based on the equivalent number of birds required to produce similar tonnage as the 500-sow herd example above, that is a massive saving of: US$1,250,000 at current bird average weights.

Comparative Meat Yields

Figure 1 - Comparative Meat Yields

Increase the yield by 50% is a massive additional - $150/bird additional revenue at average $10/kg: that is increased revenue of $3,750,000. It takes approximately 8,500 fewer birds to produce same volume of meat.

These improvements in performance are very achievable with the stock we currently have, when reared under the right management systems and with the right rations. Once the genetic improvement program starts to show benefit, the potential for further improvements remains very significant establishing Ostrich as a highly profitable industry.

World Ostrich Production Statistics

Newsletter No. 61 - Item 3

Newsletter No. 19 included a table summarising production from 1993, the last year before deregulation of the industry in South Africa to 2004, when it was becoming clear that the industry in South Africa was moving into decline. Some figures have subsequently been updated as the 2004 figures were estimates and reflected now in Table 1.


Table 1 - World Ostrich Production Figures

The figures illustrate that South Africa is returning to the 1993 levels with no stability in the other regions and Namibia and Israel no longer in production. Namibia’s facilities were built to support 95,000 slaughter birds, but never achieved greater than 30,000. Figure 1 demonstrates not only the variability from year to year in total production, but also the variability of each area from year to year. It illustrates the lack of consistency. It is important to note that Brazil reports 100,000 birds slaughtered in 2007, but this was not driven by a huge increase in demand, but rather most farmers leaving the industry, with slaughter including many breeder birds.

Ostrich Meat Tonnage

Figure 1:  Comparative Ostrich Meat Tonnage by Country (table 1)

Further points to note in Figure 1:

The peak is 14,000 tonnes of meat total global production per annum. To put this volume into perspective:

  • Production spread between many countries
  • Within each country, including South Africa, there are a number of different plants slaughtering the birds
  • A pig slaughter plant very close to where I live slaughters 10,000 pigs/day

10,000 pigs/day is equivalent to:

  • 700 tonnes meat per day (output from a 500 sow unit)
  • 20 days slaughter for this single plant is total annual tonnage of Global Ostrich slaughter in 2002
  • Less than 10 days at current Ostrich production levels

Costs at every stage – production, processing, distribution and marketing – are high when operating in low volume. It is not possible to achieve economies of scale on these low production figures. To achieve genetic improvement programs requires high volume. It requires high volume for support services to invest and develop other technical services required to support an industry.


Note 1
Asia: All Asian countries, including China, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia
Australasia: Australia and New Zealand
Bophuthatswana: The independent homeland of South Africa that became part of South Africa once more with the New South Africa
Europe: For full list see:
Middle East: Includes the whole region.
Namibia: Namibia only
North America: Canada, USA, Mexico and all countries North of the Panama Canal.
South Africa: South Africa only
Southern Africa: Zimbabwe and Botswana
South America: All countries South of the Panama Canal.
Other: Any not included in the above

Note 2:
Figures as published in "The Report on the Effects of Deregulation of the South African Ostrich Industry" -  Page 27

Note 3:
"The Global Industry, Current Situation" - Fiona Benson. Presented to the World Congress, Portugal, 1999 -

Note 4:
Figures as published in "The Report on the Effects of Deregulation of the South African Ostrich Industry" - Page 37

Note 5:
Estimates from current information.
The only way to achieve more accurate information is for members to set up systems in their own countries to be able to report meaningful results.

How Interactive are Nutritionists and Veterinarians?

Newsletter No. 60

The following blog, authored by Mojtaba Yegani, was published this month under the title: Poultry Nutritionists and Veterinarians – How interactive are they? on the World Poultry web site.

The poultry industry is a complex network of technical people with different educational backgrounds such as genetics, production management, nutrition, veterinary medicine and engineering. Nutritionists and veterinarians are usually considered as two dominant categories in commercial poultry production. It is a well-known fact that having a fully cooperative management team is of paramount importance in order to be able to achieve production goals and stay in this highly competitive business.

Efficient interactions of poultry nutritionists and veterinarians are essential to this accomplishment. We, as nutritionists or veterinarians, can discuss the following questions in this blog:

a. How interactive are you as a poultry nutritionist or veterinarian?
b. Blaming someone else could be a first reaction to a problem. Has this been your experience when a problem occurs in your farm?
c. Nutritionists and veterinarians can efficiently benefit from each other’s knowledge and practical experiences. Do you agree with this?

There are a number of responses and without exception all are in full agreement.

A few years ago I asked a senior ostrich vet if he believed there should be cross over between veterinary and nutritionist as the two disciplines are so interrelated. He agreed and went onto state that he had no knowledge of nutrition. We only have to look at the tables in the links below listing the clinical signs of deficiencies to understand just how these two disciplines interrelate to each other, no matter which specie – the principles are the same.

Functions, Deficiencies, Interrelationships & Toxicities of Minerals and Vitamins– Poultry including Ostrich Nutritional Deficiencies and Excesses - Pigs

Optimum Vitamin Nutrition™
Roche Vitamins, now owned by DSM, introduced the terminology Optimum Vitamin Nutrition™ (OVN). The company recognised that many of the National Research Council (NRC) nutritional recommendations are set dangerously low. The following is their explanation of OVN as it relates to production livestock. There are recommendations out for Ostrich, although not yet published by the NRC, and proving to also be set too low.

Quote: "Optimum Vitamin Nutrition" refers to providing all known vitamins in the diet at levels that permit optimum health and performance. The figure below provides a simplified visualization.

optimum nutrition

The y-axis, Average Animal Response, refers to any average productivity or health measure, such as growth rate, feed efficiency, immunity or reproductive performance, as it responds to vitamin allowances.

The x-axis, Vitamin Allowances, refers to the total level of vitamins in the diet, including feedstuffs and fortification:

  • Deficient marginal allowances (2) are below the requirements published by the National Research Council, putting the animals at risk of developing clinical deficiency signs and disorders.
  • Suboptimum marginal allowances (3) exceed the NRC requirements and thus prevent clinical signs, but they are inadequate to permit optimum health and productivity.
  • Optimum allowances (4) permit optimum animal health and productivity.

Note that there is not a single optimum vitamin allowance. Various influencing factors will affect both the animal's requirements and the ability of the diet to meet them. These factors include:

  • Stressors on the animal:
    - Disease
    - Confinement
    - Restricted feeding
    - Vitamin antagonists
    - Air quality
    - Temperature
  • Variations of vitamin levels in feedstuffs:
    - Bioavailability
    - Stability
    - Quality of feedstuffs

For instance, vitamin allowances that are optimum in a stress-free environment may become suboptimum as the heat stress of summer increases. Thus, Optimum Vitamin Nutrition remains a dynamic aspect of animal agriculture that must be regularly evaluated. END

Note that the current published recommendations for ostrich fall into Category 2 above, as we still see many clinical deficiency signs, even with this company.

The following is a quote from the first couple of paragraphs of chapter in The Poultry Site Hand Book. The whole article can be read by clicking this link.

Optimum vitamin nutrition of laying hens
The overall goal of the layer industry is to achieve the best performance, feed utilization and health of birds. All nutrients including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water are essential for these vital functions, but vitamins have an additional dimension. They are required in adequate levels to enable the animal to efficiently utilize all other nutrients in the feed. Therefore, optimum nutrition occurs only when the bird is offered the correct mix of macro- and micronutrients in the feed and is able to efficiently utilize those nutrients for its growth, health, reproduction and survival.

Vitamins are active substances, essential for life of man and animals. They belong to the micronutrients and are required for normal metabolism in animals. Vitamins are essential for optimum health as well as normal physiological functions such as growth, development, maintenance and reproduction. As most vitamins cannot be synthesized by poultry in sufficient amounts to meet physiological demands, they must be obtained from the diet. Vitamins are present in many feedstuffs in minute amounts and can be absorbed from the diet during the digestive process. If absent from the diet or improperly absorbed or utilized, vitamins are a cause of specific deficiency diseases or syndromes. End

As can be seen vitamins are essential to good health, but only of value when part of a correctly balanced diet, containing all the correct nutrients. We certainly agree with Mojtaba Yegani.

Forage Testing

Newsletter No. 59 -  Item 3 & 4

This section of the newsletter discussed the importance of testing the forage fed to production livestock to ensure the nutritional profile of the batch is accurate to enable the nutritionist to balance the rations accurately.

Forage Testing
Forage testing is normal practice in production livestock farming.   A forage test supplies essential information about the nutritive value of the forage portion of the rataion.  It can be fed as hay, haylage or silage. Hay is the optimum medium for ostrich.  It is essential to ensure the rest of the feed provide balanced rations capable of supporting the production group.  Dairy genetics have improved dramatically over the years and feeding the forage and other ingredients as a complete feed is becoming the norm, to enable accurate intake of sufficient nutrients to support high levels of production without the metabolic problems long associated with milk production.  Today, dairy cattle fed in this manner can be seen in grass paddocks for exercise, but they do not eat the grass as they now receive their total nutrient requirements in the feed bunker.

Some useful articles on forage testing:

Basics of Forage Testing
Collecting Forage Samples

Quality alfalfa amounts for as much as 40% of ostrich diets, so accuracy in forage analysis is essential.

Alfalfa suitable for most climates
Alfalfa/Lucerne is an important component in an ostrich ration.  Working with any other forage ingredient is always a compromise that will cost production and limit the ability to achieve the full potential of the best Ostrich genetics.  We are often told that it is not possible to grow Alfalfa in this country or that so, when a member informed us they had been told that the bug situation made it too expensive to produce alfalfa in their country, I emailed a scientist from their region who had done some trials.  The response received was very positive:

Quote:  We have studied some alfalfa cultivar under laboratory conditions and some of them exhibited high levels of resistance. End quote

He gave me an introduction to a scientist whom he believed to be more up to date with information in the region.   The response was also positive – it illustrated the management factors required, but concluded that the production of Alfalfa can be commercially viable in the region.   The comments relating to the diversity of Alfalfa as a crop adaptable to extremes of climatic conditions are of significant importance.  As with all agricultural crops and livestock – it requires high standards of management to achieve optimum production with commercially viable returns.

Quote:  Being a plant of temperate climate, alfalfa, due to its wide genetic variability, is able to adapt to differing climates and altitudes from sea level to high valleys, so that it can be cultivated in almost any part of the world. 

It has been found that regarding ambient temperature, the yellow-flowered alfalfa (Medicago falcata), for example, survived temperatures as low as minus 28C in Alaska, whereas some common varieties (Medicago sativa) were grown in Death Valley in California, USA, with temperatures up to 54C.  And, among the common varieties (M. sativa), the variety “Crioula” is the best adapted to the State of São Paulo, which is in the south east region of Brazil.

However, the most significant factor influencing the production of alfalfa in any part of the world is soil fertility, which can actually rule it out as a demanding economic crop.  The soil must have high fertility, with pH between 6.0 and 6.5. I should point out that soils in Brazil are of low to medium fertility, with pH between 4.0 and 5.0.  This must be adjusted, that is to say the soil fertility must be improved for the production of forage alfalfa by the application of appropriate elements (dolomitic lime).  As well as this, soils must be deep, of average texture (sandy-clay), be free of compaction, have good permeability, with any aquifer being deeper than 2m., and irrigation must be available.  Regarding irrigation, although it is a plant which is fairly resistant to drought, high production of forage will only be obtained with supplementary water during periods of drought stress.

Therefore, by taking account of and correcting certain requirements, as mentioned above, the commercial cultivation of alfalfa is reasonably viable in the State of São Paulo, in the south east region of Brazil. End quote

The answer therefore is that it is possible to grow alfalfa in any region or climate in the world providing the soil and management conditions are correct and in areas of high humidity there will be an additional problem of drying to overcome. To achieve commercial production of alfalfa will require ostrich producers working in collaboration with arable producers and the local scientific community to achieve commercial production of alfalfa.

Ostrich Genetics

Newsletter No 59 - Item 1 & Item 2

The meat market is highly competitive and never more so than today, with rapidly increasing ingredient prices that make excellent feed conversion ever more important.  Previously we have discussed the tremendous efficiencies that have been experienced with main stream livestock production species that have contributed to their ability to produce meat cost effectively.  In fact these efficiencies have enabled meat to be available to many more people.   This was achieved by tremendous improvements in nutrition, feed management and farm management.  This has enabled the true genetic ability of the animals to develop.  We can name such companies as Cobb, Genus, JSR, Aviagen, Ross, PIC as examples of companies that specialise in developing the genetics to provide farmers with animals to suit the current market demands.  In recent years these genetic companies have amalgamated in a similar manner that the feed companies and other technology companies have done.

Studying the major genetic companies highlights an interesting and relevant point – that they are dominated by pig and poultry industries, but there are a number of ruminant companies specialising in AI and embryo transfer.

This newsletter will focus on Genetics as they apply to ostrich.

In this context, FCR is Feed Conversion Ratio.

A short quote from an extremely interesting article at

Genetic Gains - FCR Should Be The Focus
By Jane Jordan, ThePigSite Editor. As feed costs continue to rise pig producers are trying to squeeze every scrap of growth and performance from their herds - which is not easy given the many variables involved in producing a quality carcases.

Genetic progress is vitally important, but it's often compromised when the going gets tough. What should producers be considering for their breeding programmes to maximise efficiency?

Ed Sutcliffe, Technical Director at Yorkshire-based breeding company ACMC, says feed efficiency (FCR) should be the priority for any pig business.

"Producers should be considering the same criteria whether they have a high-health herd or disease challenged stock. When selecting genetics for use in the current climate it's vital that the breeds used have a history of being selected for feed efficiency," he explains.
He says producers should be asking two key questions:

Does the genetics supplier consider feed efficiency important enough to actually measure feed intake and efficiency at nucleus level and on an individual basis?

Can the breeding company demonstrate ongoing improvements in feed efficiency and growth rate?
End Quote

With the Ostrich industry developing globally, but no consistent slaughter market, there has been little or no genetic improvement programmes yet in place with ostrich.  Success has been measured in the ability to keep chicks alive and few pay attention to Feed Conversion and days required to finish a bird.  To add to the confusion, dealers refer to birds as Red, Blues or Blacks.  Dr. Mike Jarvis presented the following table to clearly identify different genetics, indicating that there are many more than 3 sub-species.


Table 1 - Summarised differences between ostrich races.
Data from Brown et al(1982, Jarvis (1991) and Jarvis (unpublished data)

Missing from the table is the Australian Grey.  Note also the very low live weights that many have proven can be exceeded.  However, it does illustrate that some breeds do not have the same genetic ability to gain weight as others and this is an important factor.  Of course it is only possible to establish the true genetic traits once we not only eliminate the current symptoms of malnutrition causing stunted growth, but also provide sufficient nutrients to enable the true genetic traits to flourish.

The article goes onto discuss the need for producers to understand the requirements of the processors:
Quote:  "Processors want to ensure they have the best pigs to suit their system and retail customers. It surprises me that producers change their genetics without consulting their customer - the processor," says Dr Walling.

JSR has spoken to a number of processors on this issue and has found that of the three major UK processors they only knew of three producers that had contacted them prior to changing the boar lines.

"Can you imagine a company like Heinz deciding to change the type of beans in their cans without any customer research? Those keeping pigs should keep one eye on their customers' requirements," he advises. End Quote

Processors we have spoken to prefer birds with larger muscles, as found on birds with 70kgs carcasses as they are more usable.   As an industry we are fortunate that we are at the beginning of the genetic development and improving the FCR is the first place to cut the costs of production and overcome the increasing price of grain.

We have to look at the successful specie as examples, until our own industry commences serious genetic work.  Another article references 8 points to consider, two points illustrate the importance of genetics, just how tight margins are today and the important part genetics play in improving efficiency and profit margins.

Quote: “Will it deliver product that my outlet wants – optimising sale weight on a specific contract?

There are many modelling systems available to identify target sale weights – it is useful to check regularly as circumstances will change. If feed is say £180/t and food conversion efficiency (FCE) in the final finishing stage is say 3:1, than the cost of adding an extra 5kg to your sale weight (3.75kg deadweight) will be £2.70.

If this is a marginal value, and all other costs are covered, at a market price of say 105p/kg a 78.75kg carcase will deliver an £3.94/pig advantage compared with a carcase finished to 75kg. Alternatively, the extra slaughter value can spread fixed costs over more weight to reduce the impact of costs per kg. Cash flow may be an issue to fund the extra growth, but the value is still there and if the pig is achieving the heavier weight in the same time then the cash impact should be minimal.

However, if you want to target a carcase weight above 75kg it is important that you make sure your sireline has been selected to maintain high growth rates above 100kg liveweight. Piétrain breeds traditionally slow down markedly above 100kg liveweight, so finishing at 75kg deadweight may be the most efficient target for progeny of these sirelines. End quote

Quote: “Look for a track record – establish what performance can be achieved, realistically. Genetics is perhaps three per cent of costs, of which perhaps up to a half will be sireline genetics. So, if the cost of production is say 120p/kg, then the sireline genetic cost per pig at 75kg deadweight is about £1.35p. An extra 50g growth per day is likely to be worth £1.50/pig and an improvement of 0.08 in FCE could be worth £1.30/pig.

When times are hard make the genetics work - it may not be one of the largest costs, but producers should ensure that they are earning the most value from it. The cost of genetics is unlikely to make the difference between a business sinking or swimming, but the right genetics certainly can. Think carefully before making a change.

It is not possible within a genetic selection programme to make changes instantaneously. So if you want it all... and you want it now... then look for established sirelines with a proven record that are delivering now, yet have further potential for the future”.

In contrast, The Agricultural Research Council (article no longer availabe) in South Africa makes this statement when discussing genetics of ostrich and is another clear indication that the SA Ostrich industry to date has paid no attention to traditional production agriculture economics:

Quote: A private breeder funded the purchase of a set of seven microsatellites for ostriches. The microsatellites were selected after consultation with ILRI (Dr. Kimwele). All the markers showed high levels of variation that make them ideal for parentage determination and genetic variation studies. Although this service is rendered at this stage only to a single breeder, it is hoped that the service can be expanded to the entire ostrich industry. It is also the first attempt to combine genetic information with a breeding policy for ostriches. End quote

This is part of a document discussing genetic tracking in several specie and feed conversion, meat yields and other measures of efficiencies are not mentioned during the discussions.

Ostrich Feather Thefts in South Africa

Press reports from South Africa this week are reporting the theft of feathers with the perpetrators caught on Monday (8th April, 2013).   These thefts are not from the manufacturers, but directly from the live birds in their pens – birds from the Research Farm in Oudtshoorn are reported as a major target, with several birds killed. The thieves were caught and appeared in court on Wednesday (10th April).  You can read one of a number of press reports of the thefts here.

South African Avian Influenza

A new case of avian influenza was reported this week (April 2013) in South Africa.   To put this outbreak into context it maybe helpful to provide a reminder of the situation over the past couple of years as it has had a major impact on all working to build their business based on ostrich, no matter where they are positioned in the supply/value chain.

Avian Influenza resulted in the South African Ostrich Industry closing their borders to exports of their meat, eggs, chicks and live birds in April 2011, when H5N2 was first identified as officially reported to the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) here.  Over the months since then, their veterinary services have filed 13 follow up reports with the last filed in October 2012.

In February 2012 an intitial report for an outbreak of H7N1 was filed - that report is available here with no follow up reports yet filed.   This is the strain reported in the media this week as found on one farm.  To date the follow up report relating to this new outbreak is not yet filed with the OIE as it is early days.

The May 2012 newsletter reported on how the South African ostrich industry were overcoming the export ban on raw meat to Europe by developing heat treated meat as the ban relates to raw meat only.  The press reports state that provided the meat is pre-cooked for 3 seconds at 70 degrees centigrade, it is stated as acceptable for export.  They report that whilst the price is lower than raw meat, the products ensure uninterrupted exports.

The continuation of Avian Influenza in their flock however, does delay the ability for export of eggs, chicks and breeder birds thus opening up opportunities for all with ostrich outside South Africa.