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Ostrich Farming

An Overview of Ostrich Farming

Okay, we have all heard of chicken farming, hog farming, and cattle farming, but many people have never heard about ostrich farming.  In truth, ostriches have become quite popular around the world for a variety of reasons and with demand increasing, the best option to ensure demand is met while not allowing numbers of this magnificent animal to deplete is through farming.

Without doubt, the ostrich is the largest bird in the world.  Males generally reach upwards of nine feet tall whereas the females, which are called hens, grow to around six feet tall.  In addition, males usually weigh between 200 and 290 pounds although some of the extra large ones have weighed in at 340 pounds.  On the other hand, the hens typically weight between 140 and 200 pounds.  Because of the long neck, long muscular legs that have no features, and two large toes, the ostrich can reach strides of 10 to 16 feet when running.

Interestingly, dating back to the early days of the Romans, Egyptians, and Greeks, the ostrich was domesticated and used for transportation of noble women in special ceremonies.  With a prehistoric appearance, the ostrich is one of the animals in today’s world that continues to intrigue people.  Because this animal is still hunted in many areas around the globe for their plumes, but also the meat and skin, farming has been necessary to keep numbers up, again to meet demand, but also to protect the existence of the ostrich.

One of the primary reasons ostrich farming has been so important to replenishing those killed has to do with the animal’s feathers.  Typically, a bird is hunted for meat for consumption, as well as the skin, which can be made into clothing and shoes.  In fact, in ancient times ostrich skin was used not so much for fashionable clothing but protective clothing.  However, the feathers of the ostrich are unique in that unlike feathers from other birds, those from the ostrich have barbs of equally lengths on both sides of the middle shaft.  Because of this, people of ancient Egypt used the ostrich feather as a symbol representing truth and justice.

It was in South Africa when ostrich farming was first started around 1860.  At that time, commercial farming was for the feathers only, a time when for a period of six to eight months the animal’s feathers were harvested.  Soon, farming of this animal became a practice adopted by many other countries to include New Zealand, Egypt, Australia, Argentina, and even the United States.  So many countries started raising ostriches that by 1913, it was estimated that more than one million were being raised commercially.

During both WWI and WWII, ostrich farming plummeted but somehow, this practice never completely died.  It was around that time that feathers were no longer the reason for raising ostrich, instead being for the meat and skin.  By 1986 just prior to economic sanctions being imposed, South Africa reportedly exported 90,000 hides just to America.  With ostrich farming incapable of keeping up with demand, the price for hides skyrocketed, which then made investors and entrepreneurs realize that this market offered tremendous opportunity.

Considering that the ostrich produces feathers, meat, skin, and eggs that can earn a profit, ostrich farming in both North America and Europe continues although the primary focus is more on breeding rather than processing.  Even so, South Africa still farms the ostrich for meat and skin, with more than 150,000 ostriches slaughtered around the world by 1992, 92% coming in South Africa.  With this, it is apparent that demand is still climbing.  Therefore, experts see no end in sight to farming specific to the ostrich dying down anytime soon.

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