Archive for September 2013

South Africa Avian Flu Update

Over the past few years the South African Ostrich Industry has experienced a number of outbreaks of Avian Influenza in ostrich which has blocked their ability to export ostrich meat, fertile eggs and livestock.  Over the years of our newsletters, we have updated readers with the current situation.

On 25th July, 2013 the veterinary services submitted their "resolved" report to The OIE for the outbreak that started in February, 2011. We have first reports for export certificates for fertile eggs but still require confirmation of any being granted.

Any member who has had success, please add a comment.  Any non-member, please email our admin to let us know to enable us to inform members and others readers.

The Ostrich Value Pyramid

Newsletter No. 95 Item 3

A speaker from the Klein Karoo Kooperasie (KKK) discussed a value pyramid during a presentation at The International Industry Strategic Analysis held in 1999 and reported here.  The speaker was suggesting that it was important to keep the price of the product high using DeBeers as an example in the way they maintained the high value of diamonds.  They achieved this by very strict control of the supply of product to the consumer.  Subsequently they have discovered this does not work so well for ostrich as it is not so easy to switch production on and off with livestock and retain profitability in a similar manner.

In this case discussion related to the value of the skins as the KKK's vision was limited as to the full profit potential of ostrich viewing the meat as of little value and only a by product.  The fear was witnessing ostrich become a high volume, industrial meat production industry where the meat and skins would become commodities and thus low in value.  Which business model creates real value, sustainable employment and the ability to growth the business?

The illustration below is a value pyramid as it can apply to ostrich and other agricultural products. The area in blue in the pyramid illustrates the value Pyramid as presented by the KKK. It illustrates the high value achieved when volume is low and how value reduces when volumes increase. At the bottom end products are sold as a commodity where any competitor can undercut prices.


Ostrich Value Pyramid

To increase volume whilst maintaining value is achieved through product differentiation utilising methods to encourage buyers to come to you rather than a competitor.  The areas in green represent examples of some ways to add value.

FAO Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources

Newsletter No. 95- Item 2

In January 2011 the FAO sent the WOA a questionnaire asking if the WOA had a Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources and if so for information on that plan. The document was drawn up in 2008 and can be viewed here.  The objective is to develop a global framework for managing animal genetic resources for food and agriculture in a sustainable manner and combating the erosion of genetic diversity in livestock species.

The agricultural revolution following World War 2 has witnessed amazing developments in genetic performance of the mainstream meat producing species.   One of the drivers of this revolution has been identification of the high performing genetic breeds and improving those breeds that were specialist to the needs of the market they are servicing.

This has resulted in many breeds of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and poultry no longer commercially viable in today’s market place.   This genetic pool is under threat of extinction as they are no longer viable to farm on a commercial basis and no longer available in the wild.  The compartive photos below illustrate the amazing changes in just one commercial breed from 1959 to 2006.

Comparative prize winning Aberdeen Angus bulls

comparative angus bulls over the years

Ostrich has different challenges.  The majority of domesticated ostrich remain in South Africa where their genetic pool is diversified from local wild stock.  Over the years the genetic development has been limited, with the most notable genetic introductions made when birds from Timbuktu were introduced to improve feather quality.   Currently there are genetic strains in Northern Africa either under pressure or extinct – not from agriculture but as a result of conflict.

The pressures on the genetic pool of ostrich currently remain environmental rather than domestication for agriculture. As an association we have a responsibility to monitor all threats to our genetic pool and genetic diversity. However it will take successful commercialisation to fund any meaningful preservation program of our genetic pool whether from environmental or commercial threats.

Bygholm Sieve and Food Particle Size

This article discussed Food Particle Size and the use of the Bygholm Sieve as a tool to evaluate the accuracy of the particle size.   The importance of particle size is as important with ostrich production as it is with pig farming, though the particle sizes will be a little different. This article discusses an Essex pig farmer who mills his feed on farm.

This farmer had noticed increased restlessness, aggression and tail biting among his finishing pigs when a particular variety of wheat was included in the diets. By using the Bygholm Sieve they found that although a particular wheat variety produced a similar particle size to other wheat varieties, it was stickier. After removing the 'sticky' wheat from the feed, no further problems were seen.

Later they used the Bygholm Sieve to analyse other grains. They found that 10 per cent of the rapeseed meal sampled was too coarse because some of the fine material had stuck together and formed clusters. They also found that the unmilled soya (HiPro) showed similar results with up to 10 per cent of the product being too coarse to be digested effectively by pigs.

A quote from the farmer:  “We spend so much money on feeding our pigs, so why not put a little effort into analysing the feed for optimal efficiency?”

This page describes the Bygholm Seive.  This example illustrates clearly the degree of detailed management incorporated by the pig industry to optimise their feed performance and feed conversion.  It illustrates how the best stay in a business that has become extremely competitive operating on very tight margins.  The above graphic illustrates how the price of pigmeat over the years has reduced despite the ever increasing costs.  It is attention to every detail that is a key to successful meat production on the farm.

Feed Efficiency: On-Farm Checks

Newsletter No: 94

This is the title of an article that can be viewed at the Pig Site.   It references a new series of ‘Knowledge Transfer Bulletins’ from BPEX.  The topic covers an extremely important aspect of livestock production and the basic principles are as true for ostrich as they are for pig production.   Therefore it is copied into this newsletter with the wording ammended as it applies to ostrich production.  As you will see, there are very few adjustments.  The tables are deleted as they related to space requirements, building temperatures and water flow for the nipple waterers as all will clearly be very different for Ostrich.

Feeding space

Is there adequate feeder/hopper space for the number and size of ostrich in the pen? Take time to look, are ostrich crowding around the feed hopper or trough?

Feed flow rates

Are all the feeders working correctly? Adjust the feeder flow rates to maintain intake but reduce wastage. Depending on the hopper, flow rates may need to be adjusted as the ostrich grow. Check each hopper to ensure that the feeding system works.

Feed quality

The presence of dust, fines or lumps of clogged feed will reduce feed intake. Check if the feeder mechanism is damaging/crushing the feed or affecting the pellet size, increasing wastage. Try using a Bygholm sieve to check particle size, ask BPEX for more information.

Feed storage

Inspect bins and check feed for signs of mould and mites. If found, identify the source, e.g. clogged feed in the hopper or poor storage (i.e. damp and humid). If mould is present, discard the affected feed and take remedial actions immediately.


How much feed is being wasted from falling down between the slats or being spilt onto the floor around the trough and spoilt? This is expensive wastage. Identify why it is happening; is the feeder design incorrect for the size of ostrich, is overstocking causing uneven feeding, do feeder flow rates require adjustment or do the feed hoppers or feed system require repair?

Feed orders

Review your storage capacity and when placing feed orders discuss optimal load sizes with your feed supplier.

Vermin and birds

Is there evidence of rodents and/or birds on your unit? Look again at rodent and bird control. When was the last time the bait was changed? Is it time to change it? Not only are vermin a health risk but they can also lead to expensive feed waste.


Monitor the daily minimum/maximum temperatures within buildings. High temperatures reduce the appetite and therefore growth rate of pigs. Cold temperatures cause pigs to use energy to maintain body heat, rather than using it to grow. See below for recommended temperatures.


Check water availability and flow rates. Water intake drives feed intake and therefore affects growth rate and FCR.

- Are there sufficient functioning drinkers, providing a ready source of clean water?  Ostrich require sufficient space to enable the scooping action when drinking.

- Check flow rates, you just need a measuring jug/cylinder and a watch. Adequate flow rates are as essential as the number of drinkers.

- Are drinkers at the correct height for stage of bird and are they correctly positioned to allow ready access?

- Ensure water is not too hot (sun) or too cold.  Just off freezing is too cold for Ostrich and they will slow consumption and then feed intake


Is there evidence of feather pecking or body damage in the group from fighting at or around the feeder? This is an indication that there may not be enough feeding space or that feeder placement/access is inadequate and requires improvement.


Check that the feeders are clean and that there is no caked feed or fouling in the feeder trough area. This should be cleaned out on a daily basis, to reduce wastage and to encourage intake.

Long-Term Planning

It is clearly to the advantage of the ostrich producer to minimise the variation in future feed costs. This is essentially done by “locking in” prices. Although future prices may be locked in at higher than current prices, this should be more than outweighed by the knowledge of what your future feed costs are going to be. This knowledge is essential to successful business planning.

What Age Black Feathers?

Newsletter No. 93

This newsletter (December 2010) covered the sad news of the death of Steve Warrington, the founder of Ostriches on Line. Steve visited the farm and was taking the photo below as these chicks were clearly showing black feathering, but yet, as can be seen from their neck feathering, they were young birds, yet well grown with good muscle.   Of particular interest at the time was the fact that his South African raw feather dealer was stating that he had never seen black feathers starting to develop in birds under 365 days old.


300 Day Old birds

Back then the industry talked only in months, rarely weeks and never days of age when talking time to slaughter.  It is normal to measure age of slaughter livestock in days as every additional day an animal is held from slaughter the greater the costs of rearing...not only on feed but also infrastructure requirements, labour and other incidental costs.  And of course working capital requirements as a result of not only the increased time to slaughter but also the delay in revenue received.

Black feathering in young birds

240 Day Old birds illustrating black feathering

Above is a photo of two test birds taken at random from their relative age groups.  Both birds are classified as African Black.  The bird in the foreground was 240 days old at time of slaughter.  The start of the black feathering development is clearly visible.

This clearly demonstrates the potential for improved growth rates when improved nutritional inputs are combined with improved management systems and this is still working with primary breeding stock before any genetic development work has taken place.   It clearly illustrates the untapped commercial potential of ostrich.