Ostrich Leather Grading

Newsletter No. 44 - November 2006 Item 2

This newsletter reporte the completion of the World Ostrich Association leather grades and published them on the web here.  Premium and Super Premium are two additional grades not included in the NOPSA Leather Grading that to date has been the industry standard.   These new grades more accurately reflect customer demand and encourage production to higher standards.

Studies carried out by the South African researchers proved the younger the birds at slaughter the higher percentage of Grade 1 skins achieved.  Scars and blemishes determine grades rather than weight, thickness or follicle development.  That study also reported the follicles insufficiently formed and blamed the young age of the birds as the reason, but there is evidence that genetics may also contribute to follicle style and size.

There is further evidence, verified by a study personally carried out in South Africa and published here, that method of rearing controls the age of maturity of the follicles.  The significance of producing acceptable skins at younger age indicates the ability to achieve skins with fewer blemishes and scars and therefore it makes sense to introduce these new grades to improve standards and prices.

Nutrition and management are the major factors influencing age of slaughter, scaring or blemishes.  Overcrowding, batch size, fencing, handling methods, transport are all management factors that influence scaring and blemishes.  We still see many skins ruined by poor handling at slaughter and storage.

Also published is a document to identify the areas of management that influence the quality of the skins that can be viewed here.

There are currently no classifications for follicle size and development even though buyers vary in their requirements, some preferring larger, heavier skins with large follicles, others prefer lighter weight skins with small follicles and others like to roll their skins to flatten the follicles.  These items remain subjective to the individual buyers and sellers. We can develop follicle classifications and quantify other elements as volume increases with industry growth.

The greatest benefit of improving standards of production to produce better quality finished products is that the systems required to achieve those standards also reduce the costs of production to enable commercially viable meat production.

Earlier slaughter requires less feed, less infrastructure and faster return on working capital.  These factors significantly reduce production costs.

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