Ostriches are a relatively new venture for UK agriculture as a means of
diversifying from traditional farming methods. Ostriches are kept for breeding,
leather, meat and feathers.
There are 3 main breeds - Red Neck, Blue Neck and African Black, the latter
is the most commonly domesticated. They are easily capable of withstanding the
British climate and only require small amounts of land although they do need
shelter from wind and rain and a dry sleeping environment. However, they require
1.7m high fencing, can run at some 40 miles per hour.
The price of breeding stock has come down since the artificially high prices
which were seen in the early to late 90s. They live as long as humans and a
female may have a productive life of over 30 years. Ostriches are a grazing bird
with a staple diet of grass, or preferably lucerne supplemented with grass-type
nuts and poultry-type feeds without additives. The basic unit of production is a
breeding trio of a male and two females. Females begin laying between 2-3 years
reaching maturity in 6-7 years.
Each bird will lay between 30 - 50 eggs per year of which after 42-45 day
incubation period about half will be successfully hatched and reared. This means
a breeding trio can be expected to raise 30 - 50 birds per year which reach
slaughter weight of 95kg - 110kg at 12 - 14 months yielding 25kg - 35kg de-boned
meat. On farm slaughter is permitted under poultry regulations but the meat can
only be sold locally but most birds are processed in the few specialist
slaughter facilities. There are approximately 100 producers in the UK.