Establishing Benchmark Production Targets for Ostrich

Newsletter No. 34 – January 2006 Item 7

Benchmarking is a method of understanding the norms as achievable targets, but more importantly understanding that they are targets to be improved on.  Agricultural production has survived the ongoing price/cost squeeze by continually improving production to reduce the unit costs of production.

Our fledgling industry lacks meaningful statistics and the above demonstrates the many pointers as to why we have producers failing to make good profits. The place to develop the data is from the commercial industry's participants.  The more information people are willing to share the more meaningful the information database we can build together to establish benchmark figures that are meaningful and productive for the industry.

Benchmarking records production statistics produced under commercial conditions to help commercial producers have something to measure their performance,  analyse their performance against measurable criteria and work to improve their performance.  If they are not achieving the right performance levels, start asking questions as to why.

A committee of "The Blue Mountain International Ostrich Alliance" (BMIOA) produced a set of performance criteria as a foundation for identifying and grading birds with superior genetics.  As a starting point your directors over the next few weeks will review those figures and publish a set of benchmark standards based on the following measurable criteria and current known information?

Measurable criteria are:

Breeder Birds
Key measurements
- Slaughter Bird/Adult Birds per hen
- Meat production per hen [see note 1]
- Breeder Cost per Day Old Chick
- Incubation Cost per hatched Chick
- Eggs Laid per hen - Number
- Eggs set %
- Fertile %
- Hatched % of Eggs Set
- Hatched % of Fertile
- Eggs per Chick
- Chick Mortality to week 2
- Chick Mortality to week 13
- Chick Mortality to Slaughter or transfer to Breeder Herd

Slaughter Bird Production:
Key Measurements [see note 2]
- Feed Conversion
- Total Boneless Meat
- Days to Slaughter
- Feed Costs to Slaughter
- Carcass Grade

- Liveweight [see note 3]
- Liveweight to Carcass %
- Carcass to Boneless Meat %
- Liveweight to Boneless Meat %
- Fat Weight
- Fat % of Liveweight
- Fat Colour
- Individual Muscle Weights [see note 4]
Breeder Bird Replacement:
- Age at Puberty
ie. hen - first fertile egg laid, male - first egg fertilised
- Progeny Performance
for all production selection criteria being developed in the herd [see note 5]

Note 1
The Slaughter Bird/Adult Birds per hen is the most meaningful figure.
Number of Eggs is meaningless unless Eggs are viable and produce strong, viable chicks.
40 Chicks/hen producing 45 kilos of boneless meat is more valuable than 80 chicks/hen producing 25kilos of boneless meat.
The definitions of Carcass and Boneless meat for measurement purposes need to be adhered to

Note 2
Feed conversion is a critical measurement that is controlled by:
- quality of chick at hatch
- production potential of feed from day 1 to slaughter
- feed management
- farm management (includes environment)
- bird genetics
- desired slaughter weight
- combined with correct feather development to provide high quality skin
Days to Slaughter - earlier slaughter:
- reduces feed consumed
- chick quality at hatch influences days to slaughter
- faster return on working capital
- less infrastructure and space required
Carcass Grade
- increases revenue
- requires marketing to educate market on carcass grades

Note 3
- use in association with the following statistics
- Liveweight to boneless meat
- Liveweight to carcass
- carcass to boneless meat
Boneless meat produces revenue

Note 4
Individual Muscle weights
- Certain muscles are greater value than other muscles
- Genetic selection can include development of body shape to enhance size of valuable muscles, such as the Fan
- Current published muscle weights prove the tremendous variations and potential

Note 5
The relevant progeny performance will be the traits the farm is selecting for.  It maybe:
- Egg production - greatest number of eggs produced
- Meat Production - development of confirmation that results in larger primary muscles, especially the fan
- Leather - particular follicle style
- Fat - good oil market, genetics that produce good fat
- Feed Conversion - the genetics that convert feed the most efficiently
- Large size

All measurable criteria will be observed with individual traits weighted as being more important than other traits.

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