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]

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