What Do Ostriches Eat In Captivity?
Feed costs account for at least 70% of all expenses of an ostrich enterprise, and therefore a basic understanding of nutrition is essential. Unfortunately it is, I would say, the least understood topic for both new and existing farmers alike.
Firstly I would like to recap on the economics side. It is not the cost of your feed that is important – it is the difference between the revenue of your slaughter bird in comparison to the cost of producing that slaughter bird that is the important factor. Calculating the cost of the egg, the chick, the slaughter bird are all important indicators, as are the higher revenue obtained from higher output (number of eggs, no. of chicks, kgs. of meat, larger skin). So many people fall into the trap of looking into the feed costs without considering the production abilities of the different options and the implications that a better feed gives you so much more and helps to reduce losses such as infertility, hatching problems and chick mortality.
Having got that point out of the way, let’s look at an ostrich feed.
A good ostrich feed should have
· Forage to provide quality fibre eg. alfalfa
· Grain for energy eg. maize or corn
· Protein Ingredient for protein eg. dehulled soya
· minor and major minerals
· other natural additives such as Amino Acids, Yeast
For fibre for example, alfalfa comes in various protein levels. It is recommended that you can get alfalfa as fed of at least 18%. A higher quality alfalfa has so many better characteristics such as improved digestibility, higher vitamin and mineral content, to that say of one of lesser quality.
Equally for maize, a farmer should strive to obtain 8% protein, as opposed to the lower quality of 6%.
Soya normally comes as 44% or 47% where the 44% contains soya hulls. Again we are looking for soya as a protein source, and the 47% is recommended.
It is the vitamin and mineral packs that contain the punch of the feed. Here it is not only the values of such components but the form in which they are provided in combination with one another, so that the ostrich can use “the punch” to its full effect. Calcium provided in one form may be indigestible to an ostrich, and therefore the balance with phosphorus will be out, which could lead to severe problems.
Normally the vitamins, minerals and other natural additives are supplied to ostrich farmers in the form of a premix.
It is through attention to nutrition combined with good feed management, good farm management, and genetic selection, that your slaughter birds can reach meat yields in excess of 30 kgs per bird as opposed to 25-30 kg which is today seen as the norm in places like Australia and South Africa.
Armed with the basics of nutrition, you will be steps ahead of your competitors in bird performance.
Different rations are required through the different stages of bird growth as the necessities of the bird changes depending upon the purpose for which the ration is
Typically there is a Starter ration for chicks from 1 day to 8 weeks, a Grower ration from 8 weeks to 12 months, a Breeder ration for a breeder in the mating season, and an off season ration used for breeders outside the breeding season and for birds between 1 and 2 years old.
Hopefully this chapter has led you through the importance of using a good feed, why one should be used and to look beyond cost of feed. The important factor is unit cost of production – your results.
If you decide to experiment with two trial groups using different feeds, limit the trials to only two feeds to avoid complications.
As there is no right answer to the correct feed, I hesitate to give you a feed formula.
Check with your feed company that the feed contains the components above, and that the feed is used for a specific species (ostrich only) and purpose. One tip I can give you is that the alfalfa content should not be more than 35% of the total ration. Also ensure that bone meal is not one of the ingredients.
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