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Mission Statement
"To Represent The International Ostrich Industry Through Communication, Dissemination of Information and Provision of Industry Standards"

Contact Details :

Craig Culley, Secretary
World Ostrich Association
33 Eden Grange
Little Corby
Carlisle, UK CA4 8QW
Tel +44 1228 562 923
Fax +44 1228 562 187


World Ostrich Association Newsletter No. 101
August, 2011

Included in this edition:
World Pig meat hitting record levels while sow numbers tumble
World Meat Consumption Projections
Guidelines to Evaluate Bird Size and Development
Avian Influenza South Africa, update

World Pig meat hitting record levels while sow numbers tumble
An article published in Pig International this month entitled More Pigs Per Sow Boost Global Pig Output with the sub caption:  “World pig meat hits record levels in 2010 because of higher slaughter numbers while sow numbers tumble”.  

These types of improvements in production are still being achieved in the pig and poultry industries....it just confirms the opportunities we have with ostrich once they are produced in a commercially viable environment.  The past 20 years continue to provide the evidence of the untapped potential for ostrich production.

World Meat Consumption Projections
The FAO have recently published “World agriculture: towards 2015/2030”.  The publication confirms the ongoing demand for meat.

Figure 1 illustrates the ever increasing dominance of pig and poultry meat.  Note how poultry consumption is growing at a far greater rate than pig meat.   Why is this?  The answer is most probably because the increases in meat consumption are in areas where many are unable to eat pig meat.  

Figure 1 - World Average Meat Consumption per Person
world meat consumption

Pig and poultry have several advantages over the ruminant meat producing species.  The main reasons are that they are monogastric and produce multiple births during the year, but why is this important?  

At best some ruminants may produce twins or triplets, but most produce single offspring.  A breeding sow will produce 20 plus surviving piglets in two litters in a breeding season.  Commercial chicken produce in excess of 300 eggs per season. 

Multiple births from the same genetics enable producers and nutrition specialists to minimise the variables when evaluating and developing genetics, rations and management systems.  This is one reason why pigs and poultry producers have become so successful at improving production and feed conversion over recent decades.  

Ostrich have this ability and their meat can be consumed by populations unable to eat pig meat.

Guidelines to Evaluate Bird Size and Development
Over the years I have taken many photos of ostrich and had many sent to me.  Recently I had reason to discuss the issue of how to visually judge bird development, so I put together an illustration with several photos side by side as a single illustration. For this illustration I used the men alongside the birds as a guide.

Photos A, B and C in figure 2 are birds from the Blue Mountain benchmark weight gain trial carried out in 1996.  Using the fence and the man with these birds as a guide, it is possible to see how large these chicks were at the time of weighing.  They were from good genetic origin, but good genetics still require the correct nutrients to achieve their optimum growth, health and performance.    Observing these chicks one can tell they are young by their feathers and the faces.  They were around 195 days (27 weeks) and weighed around 85kgs liveweight.

Figure 2 - Comparative Bird Sizes

Photo D is an illustration of a scientist in the Netherlands scanning a breeder as part of a study to understand why the breeders were not breeding well[1].   The scientist is kneeling and as you can see the bird looks very small alongside him.  Note the very tiny body size.  This study was carried out in 2002.

Photo E is a photo of some proud owners showing off their new breeders that they published on their website in 2003.  These owners were part of an investment group starting an ostrich production business.  As new entrants to ostrich production, they had no idea that this bird was severely undersized.   The head height of the bird is hardly as high as the men – her feather colouring confirms she is a mature bird and not a chick as in photos A, B and C.

The birds in photos D and E are severely stunted in their growth – this is not simply poor genetics, it is also poor diet during the growth period.   Clearly, if a bird has failed to thrive during the development stage, their reproductive organs will not be able to develop adequately and this will impact on future production potential.

Our president Daryl Holle took a few photos of his own birds to provide bench mark guidelines to enable producers to gauge their own bird’s development.  Always remember that benchmarking is about setting a base-line to judge one’s own bird performance and aiming to improve on.  Figure 3 illustrates the measurement points and provides the figures for a fit and productive 4 year old breeding hen.

Figure 3 - Ostrich Measurement Points
ostrich measurment points

Body Height
Height measurements need to be read with care…there are many tall birds with poor frames. The height must be accompanied with good depth, width and length of frame.  This hen measures 1.5m (59 inches, which is 1 inch short of 5 feet) from the ground to the highest point on her back.

Body Depth
A quality bird should have good depth.  Take the measurements from the top most part of back to the bottom of her fat pan area just behind the legs.   The measurements on this hen:  68.7cm (27 inches)

Body Length
Take the measurement from the base of the neck to the very base of the tail.  This hen measures 1.14m (45 inches) from the very base of neck to the very base of her tail.  Take the measurements from where the neck goes into the back and exactly where the tail begins to rise from the back.

Body Width
Take an imaginary line (shown in green) from outside the drum muscles and measure straight across the back.  The measurement on this hen is 66.04cm (26 inches).

Figure 4 provides a few more photographs of birds taken during the 1990s when there were some good genetics around supported by adequate nutrition.  The men in Photographs A, B and C were all around 1.9m tall (6ft 3”) and taken in the United States.  Photo D was taken in Australia.  I don’t have any information on the size of these men, but it is evident from their comparative size to the fencing that these were strong men of reasonable build and height. The bird they are handling is an 18 month old bird.  

The bird in Photo A is a 16 month old Bird that Daryl Holle purchased as a 3 month old bird in the early 1990s.   Photo B is a Red Male – observe the amazing size of those feathers.  At that time Reds were believed to produce poor feathers.  This photo proves that when they have the correct nutrition they not only are very large birds, they also can produce magnificent feathers. 

Figure 4 - All photos taken in the mid 1990s
ostrich size comparisons

The immature feathers of the birds in Photo C illustrates how well slaughter birds can grow when fed and managed correctly.   It was this photo that first caught my attention when seeking information on work carried out outside South Africa.  At the time I was based in South Africa and aware that local farmers were seeking information.  The internet as a source for information was in its infancy.  Photo D, taken in Australia, illustrates the size of this bird.

These photos were taken at the start of the industry as it attempted to develop outside South Africa.  They provide evidence of the underlying genetics.  Achieving commercial success depends on producing birds to this standard as the starting point.  

Avian Influenza South Africa, update
The South African authorities have submitted “Follow Up Report No. 4”, dated 4th July to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).  The original notification and the 4 follow up reports are available at the OIE website.  The hyperlink will take you to the Avian Influenza notification page for 2011, with reports listed by country.

The outbreak started on 1st February, 2011 and confirmed 16th March, 2011. In total 25 farms have been affected to date, 5 in the original notification, 4 new in Follow Up Report No. 1, 8 new in Follow Up Report No. 2,  4 new in Follow Up Report No. 3 and 4 in the most recent report, No. 4.  A total 34,339 susceptible birds, 9,608 confirmed cases, 108 deaths and 24,407 birds slaughtered.

Epidemiological comments
Commercial ostrich farms:  Farms tested positive on serology during routine surveillance, but tested negative on PCR and no virus could be found.  Diagnosis only confirmed after several follow-up PCR tests. South Africa only reports outbreaks on confirmation on PCR tests. Initially no clinical signs or mortalities were seen.

Stamping out in positive farms is taking place.  The source of the outbreak is reported as unknown or inconclusive.

Future Reporting:
There are 4 outbreaks that are still recorded as unresolved.  It is not possible to declare this event resolved until these individual outbreaks are resolved.  The event is continuing. Weekly follow-up reports will be submitted.

The reports mention the infection as picked up on routine surveillance and in most cases, but not all, no visible symptoms were observed.   Outbreak of any disease is devastating to commercial livestock operations.  There are a number of ways management can help prevent disease.  They include strict on farm biosecurity protocols and the correct food.  The South African industry has totally understated the nutritional requirements of ostrich and this leaves the birds compromised.  It is well known that any animal or human obtaining insufficient nutrients in the correct balance results in a weakened immune system rendering them less able to fight infections.

[1] Ultrasonography of the female reproductive organs in farmed ostriches  Veterinary Poultry and Ostrich Consultant, Egelinglaan 36, 3705 TD Zeist, The Netherlands and Marcel A.M. Taverne, Department of Farm Animal Health, Veterinary Faculty, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 7, 3584 CL, Utrecht, The Netherlands - 2002


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