Contact Details :
Craig Culley, Secretary
World Ostrich Association
33 Eden Grange
Carlisle, UK CA4 8QW
Tel +44 1228 562 923
Fax +44 1228 562 187
Newsletter #15, June, 2004
1. The Role of the World Ostrich Association
2. The Need for Standards
3. The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC)
4. Member Activities and Requests
4a - The Philippines
4b - Australia
4c - Bulgaria
4d - Ethical Practices
4e - Request for reports
1. The Role of the World Ostrich Association - the WOA
The member's mailing list is designed as a means of communication between members for discussions relating to developing a fuller understanding of the role of the WOA for the Industry and WOA development. Recent comments led me to examine the reasons members have given for joining to see if the expectations are being met and if not, what is required to ensure the Association does meet expectations. Also to see if expectations are in line with an Association that has the responsibility to lead the Industry to successful commercial production.
The questionnaire has three questions. Following are the main answers given:
a: Why do you want to join the WOA?
To Gain Knowledge
To meet and get to know the people in the industry
Keep in touch with current Research
Raise International Awareness in the Industry
Actively support and/or promote Standards
Participate in WOA activities - this included seminars
b. What do you want the WOA to do for you?
Keep updated with Information
Communication to improve own country's standards
Actively promote standards
Help countries with limited governmental support
Assistance in raising finance and working with Venture Capital Investment
To Forward own career
c. In what way would you like to participate in the WOA?
Involved with seminars - both as speakers and attending as delegates
Active in promoting Standards Participate in Activities
Many general answers stating that they wish to help
The list indicates that communication, information and industry standards are all important to members. A reminder that the Mission statement of the WOA is to Represent the Ostrich Industry through Communication, Dissemination of Information and Provision of Industry Standards. We require a membership into the thousands at our current membership fee to be able to employ staff to carry out all these duties in an efficient manner. An increase in membership fees at this time is unacceptable to most people, therefore we are dependent on the voluntary help of all members. Page http://www.world-ostrich.org/committe.htm on our web site has a list of the different committees. To be effective we need help on these committees. Please take a look and see if there is a committee that you feel you have expertise to share to help us develop the standards.
2. The Need for Standards
Meaningful Standards are essential to all livestock industries. They have a role to play to establish different classes of products and a pricing structure. They are especially essential to our industry as our customers are not yet familiar with our products as they are all new everywhere. Some examples as to why standards are so essential:
Producers purchasing Eggs, Chicks and Breeders
Many of us have seen some very poor birds sold as breeders. Some of you will have paid a great deal of money for these birds. The new producers have never seen quality birds and therefore have to depend on the seller's words and advise. There has been a proliferation of poor information distributed by dealers and farmers selling birds.
Our customers are from both the wholesale and retail markets. Most believe that ostrich meat is very dark in colour. The document entitled "Guidelines for Evaluating Meat Color" published by the American Meat Science association at http://www.meatscience.com has some interesting discussions on meat color. There are a number of comparative tables at the end. The table below covers Beef and Lamb Lean Meat Color. The brighter the meat, the more attractive it is to the customer. Ostrich meat can have similar classifications to that of Beef and Lamb and this is work the Meat committee still has to do.
Characterization of Oxygenated Pigment Lean CoIor
I have heard a number of people suggesting that Ostrich meat is multi-coloured as that is natural to Ostrich and/or the cause is stress related. The dark colour, blackening on oxidation and multi-colours we see within the muscles are all negatives to our marketing effort and factors that are controllable in exactly the same way they are controlled in Beef and Lamb. These negative characteristics are signs of lower grade meat. In order to ensure an adequate return for producers, this type of meat must be recognised as low grade and the production discouraged by the industry. Buyers need to know that this is low grade meat. This is especially important during the development stage of our industry.
The skin market is more mature, yet very limited given the restricted market the Ostrich industry has historically participated in, the current low volumes and fragmented production. Buyers of raw skins are tanneries and manufacturers of leather goods for finished skins. While numbers are very low, the buyers of raw skins are acting as collection agencies to establish volume to make shipments of sufficient size to be of interest to these buyers.
In order to open up the market producers currently have to meet the standards that have been in place for many years. There is much we can do to expand these standards to introduce different types of skins that are acceptable in their own class. This will probably be industry driven rather than association driven. The progressive companies taking the lead as part of their marketing program. Due to time constraints on those actively developing the WOA, the WOA Skin standards have not yet been quantified and published on our web site. Please can we have some volunteers to work on the Skin Standards committee to get these standards completed for the WOA.
Currently there is tremendous wastage of skins that have been poorly removed from the birds, very poorly handled and/or stored incorrectly, rendering them of very little or no value.
The fat colour of Prime slaughter birds is White. This is in line with Prime grade Beef and prime grade lamb. We still have some support specialists in our industry who remain adamant that Yellow fat is acceptable. This is a disservice to our industry and misleading producers, many of whom are not commercially viable and searching for answers. There is a very noticeable difference in the smell associated with White Fat and the varying degrees of Yellow Fat. When analysis of fat are studied significant differences can be seen in the nutrient contents. The document entitled "Guidelines for Evaluating Meat Color" referenced above has the following for Fat colour scales for livestock.
5 = Yellow
4 = Moderately yellow
3 = Slightly yellow
2 = Creamy white
1 = White
Any who have rendered the fat of different colours will have experienced the stronger smell that comes from a yellow fat and the absence of any smell with white fat. Rendering and refining costs of White fat are lower. Reports of in excess of 15% increase in yield of oil from White fat have been reported. Our liaison officer for Canada is reporting the commencement of a study to be carried out on Ostrich Oil. They will keep us informed and we can hope that from this study the first set of standards will be available for the industry.
The industry was founded on feathers over 150 years ago. As the industry grows in volume and improves in overall quality of the birds, it can be expected that the feather industry will change. Many still believe that ostriches do not produce black feathers before the age of 12 months. There are many of us who have experienced our own birds producing black feathers from 7 or 8 months rendering that statement invalid.
The above is just an outline of the important role of Industry standards, the important role the WOA must play in the development of these standards and the important role of members to understand the standards and promote the standards.
3. The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC)
In the United Kingdom "The Farm Animal Welfare Council" (the Government's independent advisory body on animal welfare matters) published a report on the welfare of red meat animals at slaughter and killing on 10 June 2003. DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has recently published their responses. Several paragraphs reference Ratites. The full document can be downloaded at http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/fawc-slaughter/fawc_report.pdf. These are the paragraphs that relate to Ratites:
Recommendation 73 (Para 249):
Welfare at slaughter legislation must be changed to ensure ratites are treated as red meat animals and, if necessary, as a distinct category of animal.
Response: The Government will seek further advice on this recommendation. Ratites should clearly not be considered as poultry under WASK, and it is very unlikely that anyone farming/slaughtering ratites would in fact attempt to handle them in the same way as poultry. The solution may be to treat ratites as a distinct category under WASK with specific requirements for lairaging, handling, restraining and slaughtering them.
Note: WASK is "The Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995"
Recommendation 74 (Para 250):
Ratites must be individually restrained for slaughter in a system designed to minimise stress.
Response: Accept. The government will investigate designs for restrainers used in the UK and overseas. The Government will recommend designs that minimise stress for the animal.
Recommendation 75 (Para 251):
Government should identify best practice for the slaughter and emergency killing of ratites in a code of practice.
Response: Accept. The Government will investigate the most appropriate method for killing ratites in an emergency, to prevent the animal experiencing avoidable pain and suffering.
This is a government putting on record that ratites should not be treated as Poultry in this particular area. Your directors support this view and would hope to see further areas where it is acknowledged that ratites are their own group with their own specific characteristics. Ratites are of course Ostrich, Rhea and Emu; Cassowary are also classed as Ratite, but not currently farmed on any commercial scale.
4. Member Activities
4a. Michael Gross - The Philippines
The difficulties that Michael is reporting is a replication of all that is happening in many countries. After each point I will add a few short comments:
- All small Farms as it is called here Back Yard Farmers with 3 Ostrich some with 6 Ostrich, there around 10 Farms with more the 10 Ostrich and only 3 with more then 50 Ostriches one of them is mine. There is no coordination between most Farms, they purchase the Chicks and the no more contact until there have a problem. Michael provides free Consultancy and Training to all who purchase Ostriches from my Farm as well as Free advice and Information to all who are interested in the Industry.
Comment: The proliferation of small producers with no coordination or infrastructure for feed supply, rearing, slaughter, processing and marketing is a significant problem in many areas.
- He formed an Association but there is little interest or support.
Comment: This is a major difficulty in our industry. One of the reasons I believe is a lack of understanding of just what is required.
- 90% of the Eggs come to the Incubation unit dirty and no records on how old there are. Hatchability of those Eggs is less then 30%. Despite reminding farmers many times on how to handle Eggs and keep records there is very little improvement.
Comment: Many times I have heard these same sentiments referencing the lack of professionalism of many producers. Can I ask members to respond on how many of them have experienced exactly the same. Maybe not with eggs, but could be with chicks, slaughter birds or even skins.
- He Microchips all his own Chicks so there is no Inbreeding and proper selection can take place to support chick sales and the slaughter market.
Comment: Correctly identifying all stock is the only way for any producer to track their progeny as basic farm management. Improvements in performance come from nutrition and feed management, but also from improvement in the breeder stock. Modern agriculture cannot afford to feed non-productive breeders whether they are poultry, dairy cows, beef cattle or whatever.
- Local Meat market demand is 5 tonnes/month. Supply is limited currently at 1tonne/month.
Comment: Congratulations to Michael for developing the local market to this level. I sympathise with the frustration of having insufficient supply. Those of you who do not know Michael, Michael is a Chef.
- He advises on the Nutritional problem and the fact that his Feeds (BM) are seen as too expensive as all the ingredients are imported except the Corn and the Oil, about double the price of local Feeds (Poultry Feeds) or there own mixes.
Comment: The Philippines is a country that does not produce Lucerne at this time. Lucerne is a bulk ingredient and costly to transport. Productive ostrich rations require high inclusion levels of Lucerne. I can add that Michael is developing local production of Lucerne as a method to reduce the costs.
- One Farm asked for information as to where he could buy Lucerne. Michael explained to them there will also need the right formula and Premixes. The answer he is given is that they have everything they need, they got it from the Internet?
Comment: The Internet has been a wonderful tool to communicate cost effectively. Unfortunately it is also an excellent way to spread mis-information. Over the years since the Ostrich industry opened up and especially in the mid 1990s, there were some Ostrich rations published on the Internet. We are well aware that these rations have been used widely amongst producers in this manner. Producers are not aware that not one of those published rations have been tested and proven before publication. With our knowledge of Ostrich, we know these rations to be non-productive and in some cases we would suggest that they are close on "killer rations", especially when made up by inexperienced producers. Proof of this is the fact that not one producer using these rations published on the Internet have been successful. We have producers and feed companies who have copied the little information that we provide on our web site. This is not sufficient information to be able to develop productive rations.
- Summarised that the Philippines has a long way to go to improve with more education.
Comment: Yes, this is general throughout our industry.
- Expressed the hope that more farms will work together.
Comment: When we look at the economics of production, this is the only way for success.
- Concluded that his Farm is the only Ostrich Farm in the Philippines were he as the proprietor has to make a living from his Ostrich farming activities. All other Farms Ostrich production is a sideline if there make profit it is fine if not also ok.
Comment: Just before I left South Africa, I was trying to co-ordinate the producers in my area of the Western Cape. I was told on several occasions that the trouble is that for most of the producers Ostrich is not their major farm production and that is why they were not prepared to produce the birds correctly. Throughout our industry there are very few of us dependent 100% on Ostrich. This industry can be a multi-billion dollar industry, but to achieve that we need more involved dependent 100% on their income from Ostrich.
4b. Bert Rainer - Australia
Bert Rainer from Australia has been approved as Liaison Officer for Australia. He reported:
- That they now have +/- 600 breeding birds and finding excellent growth rates in the Blue/Blacks and also with the Red males over Blue/Black hens.
Comment: Bert, can I ask you to please let us know the growth rates you are achieving. A major problem we have with this industry is the lack of understanding of the true production potential.
- He agrees 100% with my comments on the importance of nutrition.
Comment: This is common knowledge in other livestock industries and hopefully our industry will come to recognise the same.
- His uncle, a nutritionist, formulates their rations with the raw materials in Australia. Currently they are using plenty of oats as the price is good. In the smaller chicks they are using corn (maize and soya).
Comment: It is our experience that for Ostrich Oats is not a productive ingredient and the gains on cost per tonne are lost through the reduction in production and impact on end product quality. Maize and Soya are excellent grain and protein ingredients for Ostrich. Bert, you did not state the forage ingredient you are using in your rations?
- Following the drop in production, Bert forecasts that their industry in Australia will slowly rebuild following the low meat and skin prices of the last two years and the drought that resulted in a drastic cut back in bird numbers.
Comment: I am sure that all members will join me in wishing the Australian industry well in their rebuilding process.
4c: Dessi Dasklova - Bulgaria
Dessi sent a report very similar to Michael's from The Philippines.
- Ostriches are known in Bulgaria for around 10 years, but only gained commercial status 3 years ago.
Comment: The time it takes to establish protocols as countries open up for farming Ostriches and/or importing ostrich products is one of the aspects highlighted in the Strategic Analysis of the Global Industry I will discuss later in this newsletter.
- Dessi reported "in Bulgaria we have around 100 ostrich farms (this number including yards with 2-5 birds) the bigger farms are around 25 (with between 25-100 ostriches)".
Comment: Dessi's description of the current situation in Bulgaria is a mirror image of many countries and not dissimilar to Michael's report. Numbers may be a little different, but the basic principles are the same. At the maximum 100 farms with 100 ostriches is only 10,000 birds, but Dessi is reporting as few as 25 birds. The principles are similar to the point raised by Michael earlier on the minimal number of birds on a single farm.
- Bulgaria has an Ostrich Organization which lost its reputation in recent 1-2 years because of monopoly manner of its leaders. Most of its members left it, because they don't find advantage to be a members.
Comment: This again is a mirror image of comments from many other countries and not dissimilar to Michael above reporting the failure of their association. All of us are in the industry to make money. The leaders need to be those whose plans recognise that all need to make money and that we are interdependent on each other. The leaders need to be those who work for the good of all and not just the good of one.
- Bulgaria has an EU approved slaughterhouse
Comment: This is excellent but the question has to be asked can it be viable as a stand alone unit with only 10,000 birds? It is difficult to imagine how 100 slaughter birds per farm can be commercially viable and from Dessi's description it sounds as if there are a lot fewer slaughter birds per farm. Does the slaughter plant have a solid business plan for the consistent supply of birds to ensure it's commercial viability?
- The purchase price of a slaughter bird is quite low in comparison to the prime cost of rearing the birds.
Comment: As long ago as 1997 I remember warning producers that it matters not how much a bird has cost to produce, if that bird is not of marketable quality it is of no value.
Equally the purchasers of birds must put in place payment systems that reward the good producers and penalise the poor producers. This is where Grading Systems and Yield Classifications are so important.
Producers and Processors are all interdependent on each other for sustainable growth of their businesses.
- Dessi reported sending out the Invitation Letter to join and support the aims of the WOA to many colleagues including vet organizations and student organizations and no response. She also reported having talked with many farmers about WOA membership and they asked me what they will gain with this membership, they want real things, information, support and help.
Comment: What are the benefits of membership of the WOA, what is it going to do for me? We hear that for membership benefits of all associations. I hope I have made that question easier for all to answer with the comments above.
To summarise: The WOA is needed to set industry standards. Members are required to help develop those standards and support those standards. If there are no standards then the 'crooks' of the industry can continue to play on the ignorance of new producers and our customers have no guidelines to determine the quality of the products they are being sold.
- Dessi suggested that it is very important to decide how we can attract farmers to be WOA members. She was referencing ordinary farmers, with no experience and with no knowledge.
Comment: My suggestion is that this should go beyond producers as there is no benefit to producers in raising birds unless there is full support infrastructure? Entering Ostrich production as a new producer is very different than starting out with Beef, Sheep, Pigs, Chicken. Starting out with established specie there will be some infrastructure already in place. A company looking for producers to raise on contract or local livestock market system, consumers who know the products and feed mills that carry rations proven to provide minimum maintenance and depending on the country you are in certain performance guarantees as well. None of this is yet available for ostrich.
- Web site and all communication available in local languages.
Comment: The language barrier has been a major reason that new countries have not been able to learn from the experiences of the past. Communication we have all identified as of major importance. We do need to find systems to break this language barrier and ensure that translations are accurate. This is a very important role for members in countries that do not have English as their first language.
- Offering members a Guide Book of information
Comment: There is already a great deal of information on the WOA web site. Having been actively involved in providing "free information and support" for a number of years now, I would suggest that this alone is proving not to be a solution as it requires a lot of time to study. Time many do not have as Ostrich is not their primary source of revenue.
The discussions above I believe identify further areas of information and the need for translations. Where countries share a language, then you can share translators.
- Joint WOA and Local Association Seminars
Comment: In the last newsletter I reported that Stan was asked to do a 12 day training course and asked me to assist. It has been suggested that these training seminars are sponsored by the WOA. Our next course will be from 6th to 16th July.
4d. Ethical Practices
Several members have reported difficulties in unethical practices. One is the never ending problem on non-payment and the other is chick orders that are then cancelled when the chicks are in the process of hatching. I am sure that there are other members who can relate to these difficulties? A few brief thoughts:
This has been a major difficulty over the past decade and unfortunately continues today. There are many reasons that this is such a problem. In 1999 an International meeting held in South Africa sat for 2 days led by a professor from Belgium. We carried out an intense Strategic Analysis of the International Ostrich industry. The core problem that was blocking progress in the industry was defined as INDUSTRY IMMATURITY. When you analyse every sector, Industry Immaturity is clearly the fundamental problem. I wrote a report on that analysis and I believe it is time to publish that report once more. Therefore I am posting as an independent supplement to this Newsletter. If you would like to view that writing on Strategic Analysis, you can go back to the main "past newsletter" index (after completing the reading of this newsletter) and select "Newsletter #15 Supplement".
Cancellation of Chick Orders as Chicks Hatching:
There are many areas that currently are only hatching when there is an export order for chicks as there is no local slaughter market. Chicks are hatched for slaughter markets and export markets. When living in an area where there is a strong slaughter market, any chicks not sold for export can slot into the local slaughter market. Chicks hatched in an area of no slaughter market have to be raised. When there is no local slaughter market, the producer rarely has the resources to raise those chicks, what happens to those chicks? It does not take much imagination to understand the difficulties this causes. This situation has been replicated over and over during the past 5 years or more.
The solution to this problem is for this association to set guidelines for both buyers and sellers. Producers not to set eggs for sale of chicks unless contracts are in place, with substantial deposits paid. Many members can probably relate to this situation? The current system is making it difficult for buyers to achieve the quality they require and making it extremely difficult for the producers to provide the quality the buyers are seeking. This is a symptom of Industry Maturity.
4e. Future Reports
Please send either to the members list or to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) any news or activity that you believe is of interest to other members for inclusion in future issues of this newsletter in this slot.