What Age Black Feathers?

Newsletter No. 93

This newsletter (December 2010) covered the sad news of the death of Steve Warrington, the founder of Ostriches on Line. Steve visited the farm and was taking the photo below as these chicks were clearly showing black feathering, but yet, as can be seen from their neck feathering, they were young birds, yet well grown with good muscle.   Of particular interest at the time was the fact that his South African raw feather dealer was stating that he had never seen black feathers starting to develop in birds under 365 days old.


300 Day Old birds

Back then the industry talked only in months, rarely weeks and never days of age when talking time to slaughter.  It is normal to measure age of slaughter livestock in days as every additional day an animal is held from slaughter the greater the costs of rearing...not only on feed but also infrastructure requirements, labour and other incidental costs.  And of course working capital requirements as a result of not only the increased time to slaughter but also the delay in revenue received.

Black feathering in young birds

240 Day Old birds illustrating black feathering

Above is a photo of two test birds taken at random from their relative age groups.  Both birds are classified as African Black.  The bird in the foreground was 240 days old at time of slaughter.  The start of the black feathering development is clearly visible.

This clearly demonstrates the potential for improved growth rates when improved nutritional inputs are combined with improved management systems and this is still working with primary breeding stock before any genetic development work has taken place.   It clearly illustrates the untapped commercial potential of ostrich.

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