Optimising Genetic Performance in Ostrich Production

Newsletter No. 89 - Item 1

The current (August 2010) edition of World Poultry carried a key article discussing the search for optimal broiler performance.    The opening statement is true of any commercial livestock production business stating that “the objective is to obtain maximum performance at the lowest possible cost and how this begins with good genetic material.”    The full article can be viewed here.  This newsletter will discuss some of the key issues discussed as they relate to ostrich.

Quality genetics are the key to success of every livestock business, including Ostrich.  To date no meaningful work has been carried out on ostrich apart from the genetic work to improve feather quality well over a hundred years ago by the South African farmers.  No work has been carried out to improve growth rates, feed conversion, uniformity of size and so on.  This is one aspect that makes the potential of ostrich production so exciting – but also one of the reasons that currently costs of production are higher and less competitive than mainstream specie.

Genetic Influences of Bird Performance

Factors Influencing Optimal Bird Performance
[source: World Poultry Vol.24 No 7, 2009]

Poultry chicks are generally supplied to farms today by the genetic breeders who have done very significant work to improve the breeds to perform according to the markets they are supplying. This graphic illustrates the many different factors that all have to be in place in order to achieve optimal performance.  It takes only one item to be poor and optimal performance cannot be achieved.

Some years ago I asked a key member of the Klein Karoo Kooperative (KKK) in South Africa why they did not feed for full genetic performance.  The answer received was they needed to improve the genetics before it was worth doing that.  There was a clear failure to appreciate that a key component to obtaining genetic improvement is to provide the animal with all the nutrients required to get the best from the genetics.

The graphic above illustrates well how all factors have to be in place to achieve optimum performance from the genetics.   A failure in any one of those management items will result in lost performance and therefore lost revenue.

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