Archive for Ostrich Health

Defining Nutrient Density

An article entitled The 2010 USDA/HHS Guidelines — A Rather Bizarre Definition of “Nutrient Dense”  discusses human nutrition but the principles the author discusses relate to all species.    Production Ostrich require nutrient dense rations, so it is important to understand the meaning of nutrient density.

So what do we mean by Nutrient Dense?  Usually the amount of nutrients provided in a given weight.

Using domesticated ostrich as an example, rations are made up of a combination of ingredients to ensure the birds receive adequate daily nutrient intake and ensuring these nutrients are in their correct balance and ratios to each other and within the weight that the bird can consume in a single day.

The table below is a simple example illustrating how Lucerne varies in quality.  A kilo of lucerne can yield very differing nutrient levels depending on the stage of growth (maturity) it was cut and how it was dried.  The more mature it is when cut the greater the fibre and the less digestible that fibre becomes.  The table illustrates how as the protein reduces per kilo as the fibre increases.  Lucerne provides many essential vitamins and minerals....these all drop as the fibre increases.

Comparative Nutrient Density of Lucerne

Lucerne Quality Protein Fibre Calcium Phosphorous
22% Premium 22% 23% 1.80% 0.32%
20% Good 20% 26% 1.60% 0.29%
18% Average 18% 29% 1.40% 0.24%
15% Mature 15% 34% 1.30% 0.21%
13% Very Mature 13% 38% 1.18% 0.19%

Therefore, many of the nutrients lost in that kilo of lucerne have to be provided by a different ingredient that is denser and will be more expensive.   When the quality is too low, it may not be possible to achieve adequate nutrients within the ration within limits of the daily consumption of the birds fed.

The industrialisation of human food has resulted in the processing of many ingredients.  This has resulted in many by products as the processing removes unwanted elements of the ingredients.  Examples are wheat bran, sugar beet pulp, citrus pulp, grape residue or hominay chop.  Some by products can have a place in small amounts in a ration, but others have no place in a ration as they take up space in the ration whilst providing very few nutrients.  Whilst a certain amount of fibre is essential in a ration, the source of that fibre must provide other essential nutrients that are usable by the birds.

Many of these by products can be very cheap when measured by price per tonne, but when measured by nutrient content they can be extremely costly as they provide so few nutrients for that space they take up in the ration.   When measured by the cost in lost production, and even poor health, they can be prohibitively expensive.

Ostrich require rations that are more nutrient dense than other production species because their daily consumption of feed is much lower when expressed as a percentage of their body weight - see illustration below. This makes it even more critical to use only ingredients that provide the best balance of nutrients and why there is no room in their rations for ingredients that are not to the best quality they can be if commercial levels of production are to be achieved.

Comparative Feed Intake [Courtesy: Blue Mountain Feeds]
comparative feed intake

Can Ostrich Taste and Can Ostrich Choke?

We received a press release carrying the following subject title - "Ostriches aren't chokers and can't taste a thing either".  This was a discovery of Dr. Martina Crole, who received her doctorate in veterinary science from the University of Pretoria (UP) on Friday 11 April. She works as a lecturer in veterinary anatomy in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at UP’s Onderstepoort campus.

Dr. Crole's doctorate was based on work of the Upper Digestive Tract of Ostriches.

DR-MARTINA-CROLEHer research found that an ostrich can’t taste a thing and will not easily choke, because of a pocket in its tongue. These are reported as a couple of a number of interesting findings that Dr  Crole made during her research.

Dr Crole spent many a day in the field and laboratory using forceps and her fingers to manipulate and study still flexible fresh specimens. She wanted to find out exactly how it is possible for an ostrich not to choke even though it doesn’t have an epiglottis (which, in people for instance, prevents food or water from ending up in our wind pipe). It also has quite a wide glottis or opening to the wind pipe that needs to be closed during swallowing to prevent choking.

These are a couple of papers discussing the work and findings.

What prevents Struthio camelus and Dromaius novaehollandiae (Palaeognathae) from choking? A novel anatomical mechanism in ratites, the linguo-laryngeal apparatus

Evidence of a true pharyngeal tonsil in birds: a novel lymphoid organ in Dromaius novaehollandiae and Struthio camelus (Palaeognathae)





Definition of Pasture?

Here we discussed Variables when scientifically evaluating diets of ostrich.   Reference was made to Veldt Pasture. Note there was no definitive definition provided for Veld pasture.

Figures 1 and 2 are illustrations of two different areas of veld (also known as Veldt) pasture.   I can confirm that the birds in figure 2 were fed controlled rations twice daily and were rarely seen consuming any of the vegetation surrounding them.

oudtshoorn veldt

Figure 1 - Outdshoorn Veldt - South Africa

Wikipedia description of Veld:
The term Veld (often spelled Veldt) refers primarily (but not exclusively) to the wide open rural spaces of South Africa or southern Africa and in particular to certain flatter areas or districts covered in grass or low scrub. The word veld comes from the Afrikaans (ultimately from Dutch), literally meaning 'field'. [See below for dictionary definition of field as it relates to agriculture]

sand veldt

Figure 2 - Breeders in Western Cape Sand Veldt

All readers will surely agree that there are significant variations in the nutritional content of grass and scrub....there are also many variations in nutritional content of any type of vegetation between seasons.

Most interesting is the fact that the literal translation of "Veld" is "Field" thus introducing another variable – that of language translations and interpretation.

Google definitions for Pasture – many variables come up:

  • Land covered with grass and other low plants suitable for grazing animals, esp. cattle or sheep
  • The grass and herbage growing on such land

A key comment in the second definition is grass and herbage.  Grasses come in many different varieties that are continually developed, can be uncultivated or cultivated and managed to a high level.  Herbage can vary from scrub grazing, these different bushy type plants found on the South African Veldt as illustrated or legume crops such as lucerne (alfalfa) as examples.  All totally different in the range of nutrients they offer.  All varying in nutrient quality depending on the season and the climatic conditions.

As one can see from the variables in these definitions it is essential to define parameters very  clearly.   This loose understanding of "pasture" is probably behind the advice given in the early years of our industry that ostrich require grazing land.  Veldt herbage cannot be compared to grasslands.  Scrub land can support browsers. Ostrich are browsers rather than grazers.  Wild pasture land provides access to vegetation for browsing as well as grazing and cannot be compared to the controlled and well maintained (often single specie) grass paddocks we associate with many modern farms today.

Dictionary definition of "Field" as it relates to agriculture:
an area of open land, especially one planted with crops or pasture, typically bounded by hedges or fences.  
synonyms:    meadow, pasture, paddock, green, pen, grassland, pastureland, sward;
From that point, there are further definitions and this is simply in the English Language.

Therefore one can see just why it is essential if defining the specificatons for a trial, study or simply guidelines, it is essential to be very clear on the detail.  Also for those following guidelines they are absolutely clear just what is defined as our interpretation of pasture will vary from region to region.

Body Condition Scoring

Body condition is a visual and subjective assessment which comes naturally to stockmen/women. Good body condition is achieved by a combination of the nutritional program, management and the environment. With ostrich, there remains a lack of experience on how to fully recognise a healthy body condition.

The subject of Body Condition Scoring (BSC) was referenced in Ostrich at a conference in Hengelo in 1996 or 1997.  Whilst body condition scoring is an excellent guide, the problem at the time was that experience in ostrich was still limited and therefore it was not possible to set any meaningful standards.

Breeder condition will change during the breeder season.  The aim of the off season is to rebuild their body reserves so they start the breeder season in top condition.   Figure 1 is an illustration of body condition scoring for Dairy Cattle.  These illustrations are taken from Pennsylvania State University web page, but there are many examples available.

Dairy cattle BSC

Figure 1: Dairy Cattle Body Condition Scoring

Figure 2 is a similar photo of comparative ostrich hens.  Comparing these two hens, it is clear which bird will have the resources to withstand a productive breeder season.  The hen on the left was fed a ration that was mainly grain based, with limited vitamins and minerals and some straw.  The hen on the right received rations that are of high nutrient value that included alfalfa, maize, soyameal with high levels of supplemented vitamins and minerals.

comparative ostrich hens

Figure 2: Comparative Ostrich Hens

The condition of ostrich of any age should be evaluated using the normal criteria of judging good health of which body condition is just one component. It is important to understand the difference in a bird in good condition with plenty of muscle as opposed to a bird that is carrying too much fat.  Signs to look for with ostrich are such as things as:

  • General Alertness:  At all ages the birds should look bright and alert.  Ostrich are extremely good at camouflaging poor health so as not to alert predators.
  • Bright Eyes
  • Good Health
  • Glossy Feathers
  • Good feather Cover:  Free from feather pecking but some mating wear is normal during the breeding season
  • Rounded well-muscled body
  • Well-muscled thighs
  • Strong legs
  • Freedom from any defects: e.g: bowed legs, twisted legs
  • Good appetite

    quality chicks

    Figure 3: Quality Chicks

Apart from visual inspection, the way to physically assess the body condition of ostrich:

Quote: When the backbone at the highest place on the bird’s back is protruding above the surrounding flesh, the bird is too thin. When the backbone at the highest place on the bird’s back is indented below the surrounding flesh, the bird is too fat and needs decreased feed—or a different feed formulation.  The optimum Body Condition is when the backbone at the highest point on their back is perfectly even with the surrounding flesh End Quote [1]


[1] Daryl Holle Body Condition is Most Important

The Five Freedoms

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.

Various chick problems

Figure 1:  Various Chick Problems

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.

growing chicks with leg problems

Figure 2: Growing Chicks with Leg Problems

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. 

Balancing Animal and Human Health Requirements

Newsletter No. 86

As the title suggests, this section discussed the interrelationships between animal and human health. Below is a simplistic diagram outlining the interrelationships between human and animal diseases.

Impact of animal disases on human well-being

The table below provides some estimated costs of disease outbreaks over the past few years.  There are a number of areas where disease control has impacted seriously on ostrich and especially South Africa and Israel.

Cost Estimates of disease

Some Estimated costs of disease in developed and developing countries

Newcastle Disease (NCD), Congo Fever and Avian Influenza (AI) are 3 diseases that have had a major impact on the development of ostrich as an industry over the last couple of decades.  Any country that has NCD requires more stringent export regulations than those that have a NCD disease free status in all avian specie.  When exporting many countries require the meat can only be sold “off the bone”.   Australia’s fledgling ostrich industry was devastated some years ago when the whole of the country was shut down to exports as a result of an outbreak of NCD in poultry in one area.  The country had not designated regions and protocols for handling such outbreaks in ostrich at the time.  South Africa was more proactive as the industry was larger at the time with more organised companies to drive this.

When the ostrich industry was first deregulated, meat sales were growing rapidly when it was reported that several ostrich slaughter plant workers had contracted Congo Fever from ostriches.   This shut down exports for a considerable amount of time while protocols were discussed and put in place forcing many new comers to leave the industry. These protocols have added significantly to the production costs.

The protocols required for the control of NCD and Congo Fever also impact on potential production as birds have require handling more frequently than would be the case if these controls were not required.

The H5N1 outbreak of AI was responsible for the end of the Israeli industry.  The outbreak in poultry closed down the export of all poultry, including ostrich.  The Israeli industry had no domestic market for their meat and the industry so far has been unable to recover.   More recently we have seen the devastation caused to the South African industry when another strain of AI was found in ostriches.

As can be seen the economic threats of disease outbreaks are devastating.  Therefore disease control and risk management is highlighted as extremely important.  This comes at producer level as well as governmental level.

We are now a global village and the document does note the challenges of poorer countries to participate in enhanced standards of health and food safety in order to gain greater access to markets that are currently unavailable to them.  On this matter it is worth noting that we regularly have enquiries from potential new entrants wanting to start production and expecting to export their product immediately.  Establishing protocols and a track record take time and can only be built around development of local markets as a starting point.

The key messages of the report as they affect Ostrich are:

  • The livestock sector is changing
    • For ostrich to be competitive, requires greater attention to modernisation of production systems
  • The livestock sector contributes to food security and poverty reduction
    • Farmed efficiently, ostrich has the potential to provide red meat protein cost effectively, thus enabling greater choice, especially for those populations unable to consume pig meat.
  • The livestock sector needs to improve its environmental  performance
    • With a good proportion of the food requirements coming from a forage legume, ostrich not only provide quality meat from forage, but also a crop that contributes well to crop rotations helping to reduce artificial inputs.
  • Livestock diseases pose systemic risks that require addressing
    • Various diseases have impacted on the development of our industry, but they can be managed with good planning.


The Importance of Gut Health

Newsletter No. 67 Item 4

This item discussed an article under the subject title : Gut Health: Is Anything More Important in Turkey Production?   This article was published during the month of publication of this newsletter, October 2008. When reading this article you can substitute Turkey for Ostrich as it is totally accurate to the issues that we have advised need to be addressed with ostrich for the past 10 years and longer. It is also important to adjust some of the timescales, like incubation, as these are obviously different between the species. The principles discussed are exactly the same and still as relevent in 2013..

The opening discussions focus on the various bacterial infections that are prevalent in intensive agriculture. With ostrich production as new as it is, relatively little work has been done to date with ostrich on vaccinations and other control treatments. However, the best controls are ensuring the right balance of ingredients in the feed to maintain the gut at the correct Ph levels, operating to high standards of biosecurity, management and minimising stress.

We have mentioned the importance of optimising feed conversion as one way to control feed costs, which is even more important with the feed costs at their current high levels. The following quotation confirms this advice; remember, turkey production today is well advanced compared to Ostrich producers’ current ability to optimise feed conversion.

Quote: And with feed costs increasing, even one point lost in feed conversion is an economic challenge.  Gut health issues can result in loss of feed conversion, uniformity, weight, rate of gain and higher condemnation rates. Therefore, prevention of gut enteric challenges can result in significant savings. End Quote

These are the areas the article discusses:

Management of Breeders and Eggs
This section highlights the importance of Breeder nutrition and management to ensure adequate nutrients in the egg to pass onto the chicks at hatch. For any unfamiliar with the terminology, in this context a poult is a Turkey Chick.

Quote: Poult quality and health status is greatly influenced by the nutrients and antibodies the poult receives from the egg yolk. The benefit the poult receives from the egg will be dependent on the hen´s nutritional and immune status. Therefore, the first crucial step in minimizing enteric challenges is proper management of the breeder bird. If not treated properly, bacterial infections in breeder birds can be the start of enteric issues in poults. Poults need to be free of Salmonella, Pseudomonas and Clostridium at hatch. A sound breeder program will focus on breeder nutrition, breeder management, breeder vaccination programs (including serological monitoring to check titres) and preventing disease challenges. End Quote

Discussion also highlights the importance of egg handling procedures and chick transport care, including temperature control, when chicks are moved from the hatchery to the rearing unit.

Barn Clean Out Programs
Successful intensive livestock operations operate batch in/batch out systems. For readers not familiar with this terminology, it means stock received into the rearing unit come as a single batch in sufficient numbers to be commercially viable. They are maintained in the rearing unit until they go for slaughter. Poultry are reared in barns and/or barns with access to outdoor runs. The latter system gain “free range” certification. The comments regarding sanitation and biosecurity between batches apply to both systems and are important procedures for ostrich producers to follow.

Over the years I have been involved in Ostrich I have visited many farms with systems that do not operate on batch in batch out. I have witnessed various systems in operation, with all involving continuous throughput of chicks in one way or another. With ostrich these systems started as a direct result of sales of a few breeders or chicks to new farmers, with volumes never achieving commercial slaughter numbers. All too often business models have been built on selling chicks to new farmers.

Another reason for these continuous flow systems being developed for ostrich is the enormous growth from baby chick to slaughter weight and the assumption that slaughter is 14 months (430 days). Our industry has already proven that birds can achieve the same slaughter weight in 50% of that time. Imagine what can be achieved when operating with batch in batch out systems – the birds never being moved and with strict biosecurity in operation.

Be Ready for Poult (Chick) Arrival
All the advice is assuming large batches of same age chicks – this could be as few as 50 but more often will be numbers in hundreds or thousands. The principles are the same, no matter what the numbers.

The quicker poults find feed and water, the faster their digestive tract will begin to function normally.
End Quote

Many times I have had farmers of large numbers of ostrich when measured by ostrich industry standards, not poultry industry standards, tell me that it is easy to apply tight management systems to small numbers but not possible when dealing in volume. My experience is that the reverse is true. The larger the operation the easier it is to establish tight biosecurity and management systems.

Putting out more than they will eat in a few hours may cause the underlying feed to mould, leading to crop mycosis.
End Quote

Visiting farms and witnessing baby chick feed bowls full is a common problem I have experienced. The farmers assume that because there is feed available the chicks will eat. Ostrich chicks are sensitive to the aroma of the feed – if it has been out too long, has lost its colour or aroma, they will hold back on eating. Holding back on eating leads to many problems.

Water Sanitation and Management
This section discusses water sanitation and the importance of observing controls if adding vitamins and/or medicaments to the water supply. As water consumption will vary between individual animals, we would recommend that any additional vitamins are better administered through the feed. To qualify that statement, ensuring adequate intake of water is essential to ensure adequate intake of feed.

Quote: Use water meters to monitor water consumption to ensure birds are always increasing their daily water intake. If water consumption drops or flat-lines, birds are not well and a producer can respond before the issues become a disaster. End Quote

Water sanitation and management as it applies to ostrich can only be developed once we have volume production on a commercial scale.

Service Technician Role
In this context the title Service Technician is the Manager of the production unit. The following quote highlights well just how important management is, including ensuring the feed is manufactured and fed as the nutritionist specified.

Quote: In enteric disease situations, service technicians are often asked, “Is something missing from the feed?” Yet, most often feeds are exactly as formulated by the nutritionist and the real questions is “What caused these birds to eat litter and not feed?” Inadequate daily bird care or poor management are frequently involved in such situation and should be ruled out before looking for less obvious causes. Poor management issues could include improper ventilation (too much or too little), inadequate temperature control, excessive litter moisture, high levels of ammonia, distasteful water (due to too much sanitizer or microbial growth), poor feed presentation or any number of other issues. End Quote:

Nutritionists Role
The opening statement on this section states:

Quote: While the nutritionist plays an important role in establishing proper gut health, there are two kinds of poultry nutritionists: those who formulate forgiving diets and those who formulate bare essential diets that are unforgiving. End Quote

This section goes onto to discuss the challenges related to formulating on a least cost basis as it relates to Turkeys – we would agree. The way to achieve best performance and commercial viability is to establish the best diet that the nutritionist has determined provides best performance by ensuring good gut health, and then providing that diet at the best price possible.

Quote: Not only is a proper nutritional program critical, but a strong quality control program is a must to assure that quality ingredients are received and high-quality feed produced. This is as important for macro-ingredients such as corn, soybean and fat sources as it is for micro-ingredients such as vitamins, amino acids and trace minerals. It is also crucial to ensure that the feed mill delivers durable pellets and crumbles with a minimum amount of fines to encourage feed consumption. Properly formulated feeds are worthless if birds do not eat the feed as a complete meal. End Quote

To that statement for ostrich we would add forage ingredients to the list of macro ingredients – but in every other respect support that statement totally.

This section concludes:

Quote: Finally, the use of antibiotics for bacterial challenges is becoming limited so it is important to explore alternative options such as competitive exclusion or enzymes to aid the digestion of feed components. We must use any advantage to offset disease challenges. End Quote

Consumer demand and political controls are increasingly enforcing management systems to move away from antibiotics as control mechanisms for gut infections. This can be achieved when management work in collaboration with nutritionist, feed manufacture and tight feed and farm management controls.

Veterinarian Role
The role of our veterinarians to support the industry is essential from many aspects. However, until ostrich crosses the divide from a minority, exotic, rare breed and non commercial specie to full commercial production the veterinary profession have limited data to enable them to provide the support services required. It is my experience that few vets to date have experienced our definition of a “healthy” ostrich.

These words from the article are also very applicable to Ostrich.

Quote: As the turkey continues to improve in growth rate and feed efficiency, it will be critical for everyone involved in bird management to stay in tune with how to rear this evolving bird. Even subtle changes in bird health - especially gut health - influence their livelihood. Production cost is still paramount with the company and producer but when improving costs leads us astray of sound production practices, the results may be more costly. When enteric issues get the lead, they always win the race and you, the company and producer are the losers. End Quote:

To date ostrich is failing to develop volume production; a major reason for this is failure to address these issues in the right manner.

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.

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.


Low Yield Agriculture vs High Yield Agriculture

Newsletter No. 31 – October 2005 Item 4 

Communicating with producers in different countries and travelling as I am able to do provide the opportunity to see tremendous variations in agriculture in different countries.   Travelling in Bulgaria this month was again a reminder of the importance of agriculture to the local economy.  The collapse of communism resulted in much of the land being returned to the original owners.  In many cases the families had grown, with the land split many ways.   The average ownership is now .3 hectares per producer - tracts of land that are uneconomic.  Farming in most areas has returned to peasant farming producing sufficient for own needs, harvested by hand and carried home by donkey cart.  Crops will have minimal inputs, so output is low.  Cattle, sheep and goats are shepherded on open land and brought home each night.  With low production much of their food is imported.   This situation is not unique to Bulgaria.

A sound agricultural base generates employment and raises the standard of living in rural areas.

Quote: The Green Revolution and the increasing effects of globalisation continue to change the face of agriculture.  The revolution began in 1944 when the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican government established the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program to improve the agricultural output of the country's farms. Norman Borlaug was instrumental in this program. This produced astounding results, so that Mexico went from having to import half its wheat to self-sufficiency by 1956 and, by 1964, to exporting half a million tons of wheat. This program was continued in India and Pakistan where it is credited with saving over one billion people from starvation. Norman Borlaug won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
From there, the technologies were exported abroad, finding use in regions all over the world. The success in increasing yields was undisputable. The growth of crop yields was such that agriculture was now able to outstrip population growth — per capita production increased every year following 1950.  end quote

Note: This quote was taken from this Wikipedia link as it was on the date of first publication of this newsletter item.  Wikidpedia web pages are updated regularly and there is considerable further discussions since that date.

The Green Revolution has been successful through the combined use of improved plant varieties, irrigation, chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, mechanical tractors and other farm implements.  Livestock production has been supported by the improved quality of the crops, the contribution of the pharmaceutical industry, advances in nutrition and improved genetics.   The effect of these high inputs has been to feed an ever increasing population and reduce the cost of that food significantly.

There have been some negatives identified from this rapid development.  Progress is an ever evolving process with systems developed to overcome some of these negative issues associated with modern agriculture.  Examples are:

•    No Till Agriculture to combat soil erosion and improve soil structure
•    Ethanol Production to provide fuel to slowly replace the finite supplies of fossil fuels
•    Biodegraders to turn waste material safely into usable fertilisers
•    Optimum Nutrition to increase production, reproduction and improve feed conversion making better use of the resources and reducing costs of production
•    Optimum Nutrition to reduce the use of antibiotics, growth hormones and minimise metabolic disturbances in high production livestock

Agricultural Cluster

Figure 1: Agricultural Cluster Supporting Infrastructure and Employment

Apply the modern technologies to Ostrich production and as reported last month, Ostrich can make significant contributions towards providing the additional 50% meat forecast as required by 2025.  Apply these technologies to Ostrich and they can be the most feed efficient red meat production animal.  This cannot happen utilising Low Yield Agriculture techniques.