As with any livestock rearing enterprise, ostrich farming needs to be efficient, if it is to remain profitable. Each day the ostrich spends on the farm after optimum weight is gained for the bird to be slaughter ready, means a portion of the profits being used to feed the ostrich for that extra day. The aim of each management team is to ensure healthy ostriches that produce quality ostrich meat, ostrich feathers, ostrich skins and ostrich eggs and chicks, and all these in the most profitable way. The end products also need to retain the quality desired by the consumer.
Each livestock specie have a growth pattern that is followed: First comes the quick growth stage, after which the muscles begin to fill in. Then the animal enters the maturing stage, where they will reach sexual maturity. Understanding this pattern for ostriches, will ensure that you manage your stocks efficiently. Keeping a bird destined for slaughter until it has become sexually mature does not add to the live weight or the carcass weight of the bird. Once the growth of the bird has reached optimum, the ostrich will no longer put on weight, it will only mature the muscles (making the meat tougher for the consumer). When the ostrich begins its maturing phase, it is starting to eat away the profits that could have been achieved. Only birds destined as breeders should be kept once the initial growth stage has been reached.
Let us have a look at average weights and FCR rates for ostriches worldwide, and the optimum averages found on one farm. Remember that with each passing year, the stocks on the farm did become genetically more sound, and this can also influence the final FCR. It is worthy to note however that the ostriches tend to lose weight again after the initial growth phase, while they mature. For optimum FCR, the ostriches in this table should be slaughtered at 200 days. For maximum ostrich meat production, they should be slaughtered at 225 days, at a slightly higher conversion rate:
Worldwide Average, in 365 days, reaching weight of 95 kg, with FCR of 5.9
Average – Year 3, in 280 days, reaching weight of 110 kgs, eating 420 kgs, with FCR of 3.8
Average – Year 7, in 225 days, reaching weight of 225 kgs, eating 293 kgs, with FCR of 2.4
Average – Year 10, in 200 days, reaching weight of 125 kgs, eating 250 kgs, with FCR of 2.0
It is worthy to note here that grazing, whether it be grass, hay or lucerne is also part of the feed costs of each ostrich, and be taken into account when calculating the FCR. Even grazing costs money, both for planting and maintaining it. Some farms have found it easiest to feed conserved feed, instead of growing feed, as the nutritional values of growing feed change daily, and will influence the accuracy of the FCR rates.
Keeping records in your own ostrich farming venture will allow you to optimize your feeding regimen, as well as the optimum days to slaughter. We have much we can learn from the poultry and pig farming industries, as to optimizing the FCR and optimizing management performance.
Not only will this ensure a lower feed bill, but will also release capital and working space for the next season much quicker. Labor costs are also reduced, and the pens can be given a little more time to recover for the next season’s ostriches.
Therefore we can see that as the population increases, and the demand for meat protein increases, so our natural resources become strained. By using the sound management practice of optimized FCR, and shortening days to slaughter, so we are easing the strain on the environment, and at the same time creating more efficiency and profitability for our own ostrich farming industry.