Production Starts with the Breeders

Newsletter No. 34 – January 2006 Item 5 & 6

There are an increasing number of papers published on Ostrich matters.  The April issue, Newsletter No. 25 carried an item "Are Your Goals High Enough?"  This item concluded:

Quote: "Currently most every paper or study one reads proves beyond any doubt that our industry has to change the approach as producers cannot be commercially viable with such low levels of production per hen". End Quote

The 3rd International Ratite Science Symposium was held alongside the XII World Ostrich Congress in Madrid, in October.  A detailed study of the papers published continues to prove the approach currently being used by the researchers is resulting in production levels that simply are not commercially viable for a sustainable commercial industry.  From a personal viewpoint, I was disappointed to still see methods that are outdated in other specie being discussed for Ostrich in a number of different studies.

Ostrich have the potential to be as efficient as poultry and pig production - but it requires a totally different, more scientific and modern approach to those currently being reported in the papers presented at the symposium.  They are some 40 or 50 years out of date and continue to explain why our industry has not progressed.

The opening paper discussed egg laying statistics.
Quote:  The mean of 45.6 +/- 32.5 and high CV (coefficient of variation) of 72.9% for H (percentage of chicks hatched) indicates that just over 54% of eggs laid do not hatch. End quote.  They went onto confirm that these were the findings of Kim Bunter, as we reported in Newsletter 25.

The next statement:  Quote: A similar hatchability of 47% was obtained from approximately 23,000 eggs in the review by Cloete et al (1998). End Quote

Table 1 below is a combination of some other published results reported in the different papers from the Madrid conferences.  The trend is the same - hatchability rates that are a key indicator of an industry that must progress out of this non-productive mode if it is to be successful.  The knock on effect of these poor egg production statistics is weaker chicks that are more difficult to rear; an industry still measuring success on numbers of chicks kept alive; chicks that do not convert feed to their full genetic ability and chicks that take too long to finish.

Comparative Egg Production Statistics

Table 1 - Comparative Egg Production Statistics

Statistics missing from these figures of course are eggs per hen as that is also a most important production measure.  Hayder reported incubating only a proportion of egg production for management reasons.  Woor and Erhard reported the number of eggs involved in the study, but not the number of hens producing those eggs or if they represented the whole production of those hens.  Once in full production, total eggs laid are an important measure and not just fertility and hatching percentages.

Brand et al reported various studies representing genetic tracking.  Their studies reported slightly improved egg conversion rates to those in the table 1, but still not adequate to support a commercial industry.  In the context of genetic tracking these egg to chick conversion rates prove without question that any genetic studies are flawed.  These egg conversion rates prove the current malnutrition in the breeder flock.  When malnutrition is present the true genetic potential is not able to be proved and misleading results may follow.

In 1995 Holle reported:  Quote: These ranchers report an average of 82.5% survival rate from Eggs Laid to 2 months of age.  This includes fertility, hatchability, and chick survival.  They also reported there were very few assisted hatches, no yolk sack infection problems, no leg problems, and very few problems with chicks going off feed.  These farms also commented that Breeder pairs started mating earlier and are laying longer this year, despite the heat, than ever before.  The eggs are more uniform in size with the best shell porosity they have seen.  The evenly spaced, deeper pores of the shell allow easier incubation because of a more uniform weight loss.  The chicks appear to be more resistant to bacterial and virus infections and are easier to raise than before. end quote

When reporting these findings, Holle also referenced the many nutrients that were included in the rations at significantly higher levels than are current industry norms.  Breeders were not separated or moved in the off season, unless required for change of partnerships for genetic development.  To date I have yet to see papers discussing production reference any of the nutrients reported in this study reported in any detail.

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