The Veterinary Health Plan discussed earlier introduced the Five Freedoms as an important component of the plan. As a reminder the Five Freedoms are the same across all species and are:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst - By ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
- Freedom from discomfort - By providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease - By prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
- Freedom to express normal behaviour - By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
- Freedom from fear and distress - By ensuring conditions and care which avoid mental suffering
The first freedom references hunger and thirst. Achieving the correct diet for ostrich continues to cause many problems and of course, has a significant influence on ensuring the third freedom is met – Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease. We still witness mal-nutrition in ostrich, not from wilful neglect, but rather from lack of knowledge. Figure 1 are examples of the results of inadequate breeder nutrition. The chicks in the first photo were all hatched on the same day, some developed well others failed to live and there were some who were slow to grow. The chick in the middle is one that failed to live. These chicks had bright yellow livers and yolk sacs containing no bile to aid the absorption of the nutrients in the yolk sac. The third chick was shown to me by a concerned owner as they had purchased breeders that were fed grass only during the off season. All chicks from those hens failed to thrive.
The chicks in the photos below are an all too familiar problem witnessed in ostrich production. The causes are nutrient deficiencies which are usually caused by deficiencies in the rations fed to the growing chicks. These can be made worse if they were weaker chicks at hatch due to breeder rations that are lacking in adequate nutrients.
All these problems are preventable when the birds have sufficient feed containing the right balance of nutrients and, as can be seen, that starts with the breeders to ensure strong chicks at hatch. Healthy chicks at hatch grow quickly and reach slaughter weight at much younger ages than was traditionally achieved.