Archive for Ostrich Breeding and Genetics

Genetic Influence on Feed Conversion (FCR)

Newsletter No. 69 - Item 4

The comments below refer to Pigs, but the principles are exactly the same for ostrich and illustrate just how far we have to go yet with ostrich and the opportunities when achieved:

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

The above is a quote from the article from the Pig Site.  That statement provides further clues on just how much work we still have to accomplish to establish ostrich as a viable industry.  That statement also provides clues to recognise just how much untapped potential there is....to date there has been no genetic development in ostrich, not for performance or customer requirements.

Another little quote from the article that highlights the opportunities ahead for ostrich production with the right approach:

Quote:Two decades of production proof:   Dr Walling agrees that for the past couple of years producers have quite rightly focused on lines that would minimise levels of mortality. However, now that farms have a better control of PMWS producers are beginning to look at other aspects, especially given the situation with feed prices.

"Many with Hampshire lines will have seen an increase in appetite without an FCR benefit, but that is now starting to hurt financially, so they are now looking elsewhere," he addsEnd Quote

An article written by Sue Corning from PIC UK, a major pig genetic company highlights 8 points where genetics play a major role in improving efficiency.  This final point emphases how tight costings are in meat production.

Quote:  Value for money?

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. end quote

The majority of ostrich breeder stock traded over the years have no records and more often sold because the original farmer is leaving the industry.   The condition of the breeders and the long history of variable and often substandard management is a major variable our industry needs to address to achieve meaningful data to progress.

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.

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  thepigsite.com:

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.

59-ostrich-genetics

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.

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.

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.

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]

Production Starts with the Breeders

Newsletter No. 34 – January 2006 Item 5 & 6

There are an increasing number of papers published on Ostrich matters.  The April issue, Newsletter No. 25 carried an item "Are Your Goals High Enough?"  This item concluded:

Quote: "Currently most every paper or study one reads proves beyond any doubt that our industry has to change the approach as producers cannot be commercially viable with such low levels of production per hen". End Quote

The 3rd International Ratite Science Symposium was held alongside the XII World Ostrich Congress in Madrid, in October.  A detailed study of the papers published continues to prove the approach currently being used by the researchers is resulting in production levels that simply are not commercially viable for a sustainable commercial industry.  From a personal viewpoint, I was disappointed to still see methods that are outdated in other specie being discussed for Ostrich in a number of different studies.

Ostrich have the potential to be as efficient as poultry and pig production - but it requires a totally different, more scientific and modern approach to those currently being reported in the papers presented at the symposium.  They are some 40 or 50 years out of date and continue to explain why our industry has not progressed.

The opening paper discussed egg laying statistics.
Quote:  The mean of 45.6 +/- 32.5 and high CV (coefficient of variation) of 72.9% for H (percentage of chicks hatched) indicates that just over 54% of eggs laid do not hatch. End quote.  They went onto confirm that these were the findings of Kim Bunter, as we reported in Newsletter 25.

The next statement:  Quote: A similar hatchability of 47% was obtained from approximately 23,000 eggs in the review by Cloete et al (1998). End Quote

Table 1 below is a combination of some other published results reported in the different papers from the Madrid conferences.  The trend is the same - hatchability rates that are a key indicator of an industry that must progress out of this non-productive mode if it is to be successful.  The knock on effect of these poor egg production statistics is weaker chicks that are more difficult to rear; an industry still measuring success on numbers of chicks kept alive; chicks that do not convert feed to their full genetic ability and chicks that take too long to finish.

Comparative Egg Production Statistics

Table 1 - Comparative Egg Production Statistics

Statistics missing from these figures of course are eggs per hen as that is also a most important production measure.  Hayder reported incubating only a proportion of egg production for management reasons.  Woor and Erhard reported the number of eggs involved in the study, but not the number of hens producing those eggs or if they represented the whole production of those hens.  Once in full production, total eggs laid are an important measure and not just fertility and hatching percentages.

Brand et al reported various studies representing genetic tracking.  Their studies reported slightly improved egg conversion rates to those in the table 1, but still not adequate to support a commercial industry.  In the context of genetic tracking these egg to chick conversion rates prove without question that any genetic studies are flawed.  These egg conversion rates prove the current malnutrition in the breeder flock.  When malnutrition is present the true genetic potential is not able to be proved and misleading results may follow.

In 1995 Holle reported:  Quote: These ranchers report an average of 82.5% survival rate from Eggs Laid to 2 months of age.  This includes fertility, hatchability, and chick survival.  They also reported there were very few assisted hatches, no yolk sack infection problems, no leg problems, and very few problems with chicks going off feed.  These farms also commented that Breeder pairs started mating earlier and are laying longer this year, despite the heat, than ever before.  The eggs are more uniform in size with the best shell porosity they have seen.  The evenly spaced, deeper pores of the shell allow easier incubation because of a more uniform weight loss.  The chicks appear to be more resistant to bacterial and virus infections and are easier to raise than before. end quote

When reporting these findings, Holle also referenced the many nutrients that were included in the rations at significantly higher levels than are current industry norms.  Breeders were not separated or moved in the off season, unless required for change of partnerships for genetic development.  To date I have yet to see papers discussing production reference any of the nutrients reported in this study reported in any detail.

Are you Setting your Goals High Enough

Newsletter No. 25 – April 2005 Item 3

Taking the discussion above a step further let me cite a few papers that prove the current production challenges facing our industry:

a.  Recent Advances of Ostrich Nutrition in South Africa: Effect of Dietary Energy and Protein on Production
Authors:  Tertius Brand - Elsenberg Agricultural Research Centre and Kobus Nel - Oudtshoorn Experimental Farm

This paper discusses variable rations on what the author's considered to be low, medium and high energy and low, medium and high protein rations.   The paper reports the use of low quality ingredients and does not discuss any details of vitamin and mineral supplementation.

In slaughter birds it reports surprise at the minimal changes in feed conversion between the different rations, and reference their inability to understand this.

The point missed is that the study had proven beyond doubt that all rations were severely nutrient deficient as all birds produced lower slaughter weights than the Degan study carried out in 1991.  The Degan study of 1991 worked with rations designed for Turkeys.   It only makes sense that if birds can produce greater growth on rations designed for different specie, then something must be wrong with rations and management systems that result in slower growth rates!!

b. Are your Goals High Enough?
Author: Kim Bunter - Animal Genetics and Breeding Centre, University of New England, Armidale, Australia

Bunter carried out a major International survey.  The results are from data from over 200 ostrich producers in 35 countries.

Kim Bunter Table 1

Table 1 - Reproductive performance (%) achieved in farmed ostriches
[note: 103 to 110 contributing records in full data; 25 contributing records for >20 hens category]


Table 1 proves the serious problem with breeder production and chick survival.

Quoting Bunter's words:  Currently for each chick surviving to 3 months of age 2.1 eggs on average were incubated, supporting the commonly held view that less than one slaughter bird will result from every two eggs incubated.  After allowing for differences between producers in the percent of eggs incubated, overall efficiency of chick production was very poor (approximately 49%).end quote

Productivity measures of farmed ostrich

Table 2: Productivity measures of farmed ostriches
[Note: 81 to 111 records contributing to full data; 25 contributing records for >20 hens]


c. Latest Feeding Standards for Ostriches
Tertius Brand and Bennie Aucamp - Elsenberg Agricultural College and
Zanell Brand and Kobus Nel, Oudtshoorn Experimental Farm

This paper discusses a similar study to above referenced study carried out on slaughter birds.  The study was based on 9 different diets with differing energy and protein levels and then followed a year later with a further study reducing nutrient levels further.

Latest SA Feeding Standards for Ostrich Breeder Results

Table 3 - Latest SA Feeding Standards for Ostrich Breeder Results

There was no report on chick survivability.  The authors reported that the hens in Study 2 demonstrated significant weight loss during the season.  There was no report on which hens were used for the different studies.  Nutritional history and past performance are exceedingly important when evaluating results in this way.

The study concluded: quote:  The most recent research results indicates that current nutritional specifications for ostrich diets may be lowered under certain circumstances, without a loss of performance. end quote

The study proved quite the reverse..............it proved that all diets resulted in breeder performance that is uneconomic for producers.

d. Conclusion:
Currently most every paper or study one reads proves beyond any doubt that our industry has to change the approach as producers cannot be commercially viable with such low levels of production per hen.