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"To Represent The International Ostrich Industry Through Communication, Dissemination of Information and Provision of Industry Standards"
 
 

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Craig Culley, Secretary
World Ostrich Association
33 Eden Grange
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Carlisle, UK CA4 8QW
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World Ostrich Association Newsletter No. 110
May, 2012

Included in this edition:
Ostrich Farming Feasibility Studies
Stocking Rate
World Compound Feed Production
Value of Birds
Karoo ostrich industry has a way to beat the EU’s bird-flu ban


Ostrich Farming Feasibility Studies
We regularly receive requests for information on ostrich farming from those people wishing to start farming.  This month a gentleman contacted us requesting information.   He referenced searching for information, finding several feasibility studies and the huge variation in basic figures.    The problem is that many figures are correct because there is such variability in actual performance achieved and the potential of ostrich when managed in the correct manner.

Googling “Ostrich Farming Feasibility Study” came up with these 3 references in the top search results:  

1:  Ostrich Farming: - A Review and Feasibility Study of Opportunities in the EU
Authored by John Adams and Brian J Revell from Harper Adams School of Management based in Shropshire, England.

This study was first published in 1998 – 14 years ago.   It was produced at a time when the early pioneering countries were contracting as a result of the failure to correctly address the management issues. 

Reading through it 14 years later one can see the very mixed messages around at the time that explain why there remains so much confusion on just how to manage ostrich.  The author of the study told me that when asked to do the study he had expected ostrich to be just another “here today and gone tomorrow” livestock industry but was pleasantly surprised to discover the opportunities and market potential.

Reading through 14 years later I can see a number of topics worthy of revisiting for discussion in future issues as the opportunity allows.  I would encourage all members to read this study and send me any questions you may have and would like to see discussed.

2.  Ostrich Farming: - Opportunities in Pakistan (A Feasibility Study)
Authored by Raja Tahir Latif from Pakistan Ostrich Company

In contrast to the study mentioned above, there are no references to support statements made.  The statements included in this study contain many statements that have been replicated from web site to web site over the years and without qualification or references to support these statements.  Whilst a number of these statements may be correct when read in the correct context and with supporting statements – taken in isolation, as presented, they can be misleading.    There are also a number of statements that are not accurate.

The study referenced in No. 1 above references the disinformation that abounded at the time of writing.

3. Ostrich Farming Feasibility Study
Authored by Fiona Benson

This is a short article focusing on the need to carry out one’s own feasibility study prior to investing in ostrich farming and/or any other sector of the ostrich industry.  The article states that the feasibility study should answer the following questions:

  • Is the project technically feasible?
  • Is the project feasible within the estimated costs?
  • Will the project be profitable?

This article also references the Industry Strategic Analysis carried out in 1999 that was reported in Newsletter No. 15 back in 2004.

Stocking Rate
Reading the review and feasibility study discussed in No. 1 above, you will see reference to margins per hectare and reference made to the stocking rate.   What do we mean by Stocking Rate?

Put simply the Stocking Rate is the number of livestock units (also known as animal units) that can be maintained on a given area.  

The terminology “stocking rate” originated from the need to know the number of livestock units that can be sustained in a given area of land when grazing that land.   Table 1 is an illustration of Grazing Livestock Units as defined by DEFRA.  (Department of Farm and Rural Affairs in the UK)  Other regions may have slightly different calculations that also include things as manure output or trampling as was the case in last month’s discussions on the Veldt vegetation in the Little Karoo around the Oudtshoorn region. 

Table 1 – Grazing Livestock Units [Source: Appendix 1 Page 37 - Definitions of Terms used in Farm Business Management]
Livestock Units

Over time improvements to grassland management have enabled a similar area to sustain increasing stocking rates.  This will be achieved by a combination of rotational grazing, conserving excess spring growth as hay for winter feed and possibly grain or other crops produced on the farm for supply to the livestock maintained. 

When animals are maintained on range land (land not suitable for cultivation) there is usually a diversity of vegetation.  The stocking density of such land will depend on the type of vegetation, the rainfall and climate.  Many such areas maybe grazed in the summer with the stock removed to more controlled conditions in the winter months.    Animals raised under these conditions in many instances will also be fed supplements.   It is essential to determine the stocking rate this type of grazing can sustain.

Livestock maintained on farms in paddocks where there is cropping and/or well maintained grazing there is limited, if any, diversity of vegetation.   Under these conditions it is essential to provide supplementary feeding for optimum health and commercial production levels.    

Once livestock are receiving supplementary feeding, the stocking rate can become more intensive as the land is no longer supporting the animal’s nutritional requirements.   The stocking rate is then determined by the climate and soil type.  For example if the soil is poor draining clay type soil and the region experiences heavy rainfall, the stocking rate will need to be far lower than sandy free draining soil.   

Ostrich farming started around 170 years ago when they were captured and brought into paddocks.  At that time ostrich were farmed only for their feathers.  The only way feathers were harvested was by shooting the birds that were running on the ranges.  Once contained in paddocks the feathers could be harvested without the need to kill the birds.   Meat quality and days taken to slaughter were not important with the meat usually given to the work force and local people.  All that was required was the birds were in reasonable condition to provide a supply of quality feathers.

The authors noted that up until 1995 ostrich were generally raised extensively on lucerne and the veldt.  This led to the advice when birds were first exported that they required grazing as discussed in our January newsletter.   Our Chairman Stan Stewart based in England purchased a grassland farm in 1994 specifically for his ostrich following that advice.   It was not long before he recognised just how poor that advice was as maintaining birds in this way is unprofitable for commercial meat production.

Through communication we have gained a great deal of knowledge and reviewing past documents we can witness the limited knowledge present at the time.  Sadly, as demonstrated by No2 above, this poor information continues to be replicated 20 years on instead of learning from our experiences and improving the management systems, which include nutrition.

Value of Birds
Both feasibility studies above discuss the value of birds.  One relates to more current markets and the other the huge variation that was taking place in the 1990s, when the value paid was extremely high and the drop in prices as the industry attempted to transition from breeder market to commercial production.

When there is a vibrant slaughter industry with secure markets and consistent demand for products, it is a relatively simple matter to quantify the value of eggs, chicks, slaughter birds and of course breeding stock.  The WOA document A Guide To Valuing Ostrich provides guidance on how to evaluate the “productive value” of the birds or eggs considered for purchase when working in this environment.

The continued lack of commercial levels of production results in no meaningful production history, or market price history therefore valuing eggs, chicks and breeder birds remains challenging. 

World Compound Feed Production
The pig and poultry industries today are dependent on compounded feed.   Compound feeds are feedstuffs that are blended from various raw materials and additives to form a complete ration correctly balanced for the production group fed.   Generally speaking these rations are based on grains and soya, with little or no forage ingredient.  

Though ostrich do not do well in commercial farming when grazing, they still require a reasonable proportion of a quality forage crop in their rations to enable them to produce commercial levels of production.   They do best when this quality forage is included in the compound feed.    Many of the major compound feed manufacturers today also control livestock production.  Reviewing the list in Figure 4 of Newsletter No. 90 illustrates the dominance of a very few companies that today are multi-nationals.

Figure 1- Regional Shares of World Compound Feed Production in 2011 [Source Feed International]
Regional shares of World Compound Feed Production

Karoo ostrich industry has a way to beat the EU’s bird-flu ban
This is the subject title of a recent article.  The article discusses the way the South African industry is overcoming the meat export ban that was imposed on them over 12 months ago when the recent Avian Influenza epidemic was identified.  

The EU ban excludes meat that has been "precooked" for just three seconds at 70°C, so they are now developing products using this technique. 

This month has seen no further notifications of new outbreaks of either of the two strains of the disease notified over the past 12 months. 

 

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