“In fact, ostrich skin is the world’s finest leather and therefore most expensive.
So, you can obtain about 14 square feet of leather from each 14 months old bird for a total of about $400 to $500.
This is apart from the carcass value, the eggs, oil, and other benefits.
Ostrich oil is also used in the cosmetic industry and ongoing research may reveal more uses.
As a matter of fact, ostrich oil was used successfully in the treatment of skin cancer in South Africa.” - Mrs. Jennifer Abraham.
Ostrich farming is something new in the country even though in South Africa it is an established industry pulling in millions of dollars in sales annually to the farmers. With conducive climatic condition, this is livestock Nigerians can venture in and make profitable business from.
SuccessDigest spoke with two livestock experts recently on ostrich farming in Nigeria and they revealed the many benefits of ostrich production and how to set up the business. They are Prince Arinze Onebunne, the CEO, Jovana Farms; and Mrs. Jennifer Abraham, a consultant in livestock farming.
Brief History Of Ostrich
Ostrich, which belongs to the family of giant birds known as Struthio camelus is a wild bird that modern science has succeeded in domesticating, as the largest ever-living bird and they also produce the largest eggs.
Their long legs and necks keep their head 1.8 to 2.75 meters high from the ground. Their eyes are also of gigantic size, which help them to monitor their enemy’s activities. Their legs are very strong and featureless like other birds. Most birds have four fingers in their feet, but ostrich have only two fingers.
When they spread their wings, the distance is about 2 meters. They provide shadow to their baby with their wings. The lips of the ostrich are flat and wide and the head is slightly curved. They have no food and gall bladder. The urine and crap system is separated from each other.
Generally, ostrich gain sexual maturity within two to four years of age. At maturity the height of the male bird is about 1.8 to 2.8 meters and the female bird is about 1.7 to 2 meters. For the first two years, the bird grows at the rate of 28 cm per year and weighs about 45 kg.
What Is Ostrich Rearing All About?
Arinze says, “Though ostrich farming seems innovative and can closely be related to the likes of grass-cutter farming in Nigeria, it is now very attractive, and as we are envisaging in the nearest future that people will prefer rearing ostrich to cattle. This is because there is a lot of profit in ostrich farming, and it comes with lots of derivatives – like the meat, eggs, feathers, downs, leathers, and the rest.
“ So, ostrich rearing is a new type of livestock business in West-Africa and around the world, as farmers are really embracing it. Some might be looking at how will it be possible, but I can say ostrich farming is possible!”
Jennifer says, “To rear ostrich is just to keep and domesticate it the same way you keep other poultry birds. Ostriches are very beefy birds with high commercial value. Every part of ostrich production is profitable – from the meat, eggs, chicks, oils, plumes and hides, to the whole ostrich.
“The white feathers of the male, which are large and soft, are the ostrich’s plumes and are of commercial value. Ostrich meat, which is low in fat and cholesterol is increasingly recommended by nutritionists, especially for the elderly and people living with chronic diseases that require modified diets.”
What Are The Needed Requirement To Rear it?
Arinze says, “This is dependent on the financial capability or strength of the investor. But I don’t really like discouraging interested investors who have the ability to start big; however, you can begin small as you can start ostrich farming with at least half a plot of land, while you can start on a bigger approach with acres of land. But for an entrepreneur who wants to go into ostrich farming, half or a plot of land is enough to start with eight ostriches.
“Aside the land and birds, you have to fence the land, though the birds do not have tendency to fly, however, they can move away from the facility provided. After this, you have to provide them with food and enough supply of water because they drink lot of it.”
Jennifer says, “You will need a fairly large farmland as each ostrich family comprising of one male and four females will require half an acre space of land. Within the space, you will develop fenced pens for breeding, brooding, chicks grow out and isolation pens. You should also have reliable source of water supply. Proximity to a river or stream or any permanent source of water is an added advantage.
“You will also need an incubator for hatching the eggs. You can make use of commercial hatcheries but this may be too risky as they may not be as attentive or honest as you would expect. So, wherever possible, it is better to acquire your own incubator. Some local fabricators are beginning to develop effective and affordable incubators. They may look crude but they work just fine.”
Feeding: Ostriches are not difficult to rear, as in the wild they feed on grass and insects. However, in a capture situation where the birds are being reared for profit, they should be given nutritious feed, good quality poultry feed and leguminous grass would serve well.
Breeding Environment: The birds are highly adaptable and can survive in all parts of the country. They can adapt to all climatic conditions and terrain. Ostriches are raised in the coldest parts of the United States, Europe, as well as in very high temperature areas and in desert terrains of Israel and South Africa. So, ostrich will do just fine in the desert fringes of Sokoto, Kano, and Maiduguri, as well as in the swamps of Port Harcourt, Lagos, and Calabar.
How Can It Be Well Managed For Investors To Ensure Profitability?
Arinze says, “Ostriches are very rugged; we are talking about the largest-flightless-bird on earth – it has wings, but it cannot fly. Of all the birds, ostriches have the highest immunity, and if they are well feed, the food they eat is almost that of the poultry or turkey. In the wide, they can eat frogs, crabs, fruits, and vegetables, but in domestication, they can eat tubers and others.
“So, maintaining them is not going to be difficult. Though they have their own special protein needs you have to mix with those foods, however, it has the same type of food as turkey and chicken.”
Comparing Ostrich Rearing And Turkey/Chicken Rearing
Arinze says, “Turkey or chicken rearing is profitable, but ostrich farming is like a niche market that one must go into because you can get a lot of products from ostrich, for instance, ostrich leather alone is money, unlike turkey or chicken that is only good for eating.
“Ostriches are sold for tourism in big hotels, and for zoos and research institutes. Ostrich is skinned the way you do to a cow when it is killed, and ostrich leather, which is expensive and can be likened to that of python or crocodile, can be used to produce shoes, belts, handbags, and other items.
“The feathers and the eggs’ empty shells are also well used as aesthetic value for decoration purposes. So, you cannot compare ostrich farming with chicken or turkey in terms of profitability, as it is much more profitable than them, aside making money from the meat.”
Jennifer agrees that the world is now switching to ostrich as it is the livestock of the future. This is partly because the birds are far more prolific and easier to raise than other livestock particularly cattle.
In fact, ostrich skin is the world’s finest leather and therefore most expensive. So, you can obtain about 14 square feet of leather from each 14 months old bird for a total of about $400 to $500. This is apart from the carcass value, the eggs, oil, and other benefits. Ostrich oil is also used in the cosmetic industry and ongoing research may reveal more uses. As a matter of fact, ostrich oil was used successfully in the treatment of skin cancer in South Africa.
What Are The Varieties Or Species Of Ostrich To Rear?
Arinze says, “There are different species of ostrich – the blue neck and the red neck (which is the smallest specie of ostrich), but the normal large ostriches are the one seen in Africa, as the African specie is the largest ostrich on earth.
“So, if you want to go into ostrich farming, it is advisable to look for these species, which are better – any animal you want to farm, be it grass-cutter or snail, you must go for the best species. We have the giant species of ostriches, even the smaller ones, but the best one is that of Africa – ostrich that originated from Africa, though Asia has their own smaller specie.
“For your information, South Africa is the largest producer of ostrich in the whole world and it’s a major stream of income to them, even the Americans, the Europeans, the Chinese, and the Indians go there to get ostriches. South Africa has developed their ostrich farming to the international standard.”
What Are The Business Opportunities In Rearing Ostriches?
Arinze reiterates that ostrich rearing is beyond meat selling, “There are other valuable products gotten from it. In any case, ostrich meat is healthy, even healthier than cow meat – you don’t compare ostrich meat with cow and for those who want to live well and long, ostrich meat is okay.
It is very low in fat and cholesterol. It is just because of lack of information that majority of Nigerians are not into it and I can say ostrich farming is the new game changer that lots of people will prefer it in the long run to cattle rearing.”
Jennifer also dwells on ostrich meat, which is one of the business opportunities in rearing the bird, as it is lower in fat compared to other animal meat. As a result, you can cook it quickly. Ostrich meat also has low fatty acid. See some notable features of ostrich meat.
Ostrich meat contains less than 3% of fat. Generally, their meat is collected from thigh, leg, and back for consumption. Their food conversion efficiency is much better than other animals. Ostrich meat also contains unsaturated fatty acid.
Like chickens, ostrich also eat small stone pieces for digesting food properly.
You will find about 1 kg of stones in the stomach of an adult ostrich. Ostrich can survive without water for a few days. They collect water from consumed grass or leaves. But if they found water, they would drink and often take a bath.
Ostrich can tolerate frequent changes of temperature. They can even tolerate daily temperature change of 400°c. During excessive cold weather, they cover their legs with their large wings, which help to keep their body warm.
How Lucrative Is The Business?
From Arinze’s perspective as a professional, ostrich rearing is very lucrative, he says, “For instance, let’s compare ostrich and cow; cow can only make one baby in a year and it will take the calf 18 months or thereabout before it can be slaughtered for sale – its highest weight may be around 250kg, but ostrich can produce 80 eggs in a year, out of which 50 may survive and each chick will be ready for slaughter in 14 months; we are talking about 85kg to 100kg each. To be conservative, even if it is weighing 60kg, now 60kg will be multiply by 50 to get the amount of meat you can get from ostriches compared to cows.
“People are going into cow rearing without understanding this calculation and just because of what they know, but if you look inwards and think about it, you will see that ostrich farming is far better. We are not even talking about the eggs that are not fertile which can be sold, just as you can sell the fertile eggs for people who want to go and hatch them at the rate of N70,000 each.
Jennifer opines that ostrich may outlive the owner. It can live for up to 100 (one hundred) years and can remain productive i.e. laying eggs for up to 45 years. The Ostrich hen can lay between 30 – 100 eggs per year with an average of 45 – 50 eggs. With a very conservative estimate, you can get a 50% survival rate obtaining at least 20 chicks per hen per year.
Chicks will attain slaughter age within 14 months. At this age each bird will yield about 56 Kg of meat or a total of 1120 Kg of meat per year per hen. While goat or sheep will yield not more than 50 Kg per year, a cow will yield only 200 Kg per 2 years (gestation period of 9 months plus optimal slaughter age of 15 months). Yearlings go for at least N80, 000.00 while cost of breeders starts from at last N150,000.00.
Arinze says the return on investment is high looking at ostrich rearing from its setup. He says, “So, what I have found out, from experience, is that people are afraid to start, may be because of lack of adequate information. Somebody can start with, let’s assume, a male and female on half a plot of land. Then, you start making your money when they start producing, but if you have money, you can start in a large scale.
Where Is The Market/How Is It Like?
Arinze says, “The uses of ostrich are many, but now we make money by selling the ostrich to rich Nigerians. Now, ostrich farming is still at infancy stage in Nigeria. People like to have the birds in the zoos, game reserves, big hotels, and gardens to watch. These are the types of customers will are having now, who come to buy them, very soon it will get to the stage where we will be talking about the meat, leather, feather, and the downs.
“But now, high net worth individuals are looking for the birds to be in their compounds, like the royal families. At this stage, we also make the sales by selling the fertile eggs and the breeders – 90 days old to people who want to start their ostrich farming operations, research institutes, games reserves, children amusement parks and big hotels. Some rich people also buy them and keep in their houses the way dogs are being kept.
“In the nearest future, when people would have been exposed to it, the benefit from the meat will now come in; the value and cost of the skin which is more valuable than the meat will as well come in, but we are not yet there, these are the future advantages.”
What Is The Startup Capital?
Arinze says, “Some people can buy the fertile eggs at the rate of N70,000 each for hatching in an incubator or hatchery to start with and grow. Some can buy a day old male and female at the rate of N100,000 each, while some won’t want to take risk because in the process of hatching a day old can die.
“So, they can buy 90 days old, which is as big as a grown turkey at the rate of N150,000. But for those who may want to buy a year old ostrich, it costs N350,000. You can now see what the startup capital looks like. But the most profitable approach here is to go for the one of 90 days, which is low risk and you will make your money from it in a year and six months.”
After Rearing A 90 Days Old, How Much Will I Sell A Matured Ostrich In The Market?
Arinze says, “When I went to South Africa and I wanted to eat pork meat, I went to their supermarket where the meats have been packaged in one kilogram. That is to say, I didn’t have to go to their piggery farm, but I could buy it in their supermarket. But it is in Nigeria that you see someone who wants to eat goat going to the market, buy a goat and pulling it home with a rope on its neck.
“So, in ostrich farming, I don’t think that the approach will be to wait until it is about N400,000 before you sell it. Remember that the strategy is that you are not only producing for meat – in a modern calculation, you have to make sure you exploit every advantage. Firstly, you are buying the ostrich to lay eggs which you can sell to make money.
“They can breed for you, but when they are old ostrich’s price is immaterial. Like in grass-cutter farming, a young one that will produce is usually expensive, but after three years when their production strength has diminished, it becomes three times cheaper compared to the original price.
“So, as earlier mentioned, ostrich will start laying eggs at 18 months – that is to say if you buy the one of 90 days old, you have to wait for 15 months before making something. Ostriches can lay 100 eggs a year, from which 50 can survive, but cow cannot produce more than one calf in a year and you have to wait for two years before you can make money from it.
“For ostrich, it will be ready for slaughter at exactly 14 months where you can skin it to get leather for the production of shoes, handbags, and other items. You don’t put ostrich in fire, but remove their feathers which are used for decoration; the downs, which are the soft feathers, are used in making pillows. Nobody will slaughter ostrich and sell it with the skin, because the skin is about N35,000.”
Challenges In Ostrich Rearing
Arinze specifically says that the only challenge being envisaged in the nearest future is that you will need a large expanse of land if you are going into commercial ostrich rearing.
What Prompted You To Go Into Ostrich Farming
Arinze says, “I am not only promoting ostrich, we are also promoting gazelle (Antelopes) and some other animals which people have not though about domesticating. Goat, camel and cow were wild animals before man tamed them, so if we are saying we want to create employment opportunities all around, we need to exploit other opportunities in livestock farming.
“After all, before we came out with the idea of grass-cutter farming, people were not aware of it until we propagated it, created awareness and took it to virtually all the nooks and crannies of this country – grass-cutter farming has created millions of employment today and is being enjoyed as business in Nigeria.
“So, we are using the same approach to introduce this ostrich as another aspect of livestock farming for the middle class to exploit. I have told you that South-Africa is the highest ostrich farming country in the whole world and they make millions of dollars yearly from it, so why can’t Nigeria do same? Our climate favours it too. We are also into ostrich farming and promoting it to deal with people’s ignorance so that they can try and see it the same way we did to grass-cutter farming which has become a household product in Nigeria.”
What Has Been Your Achievements So Far, Promoting Ostrich?
Singling-out an achievement Arinze says, “For now the clients we are having are buying live ostriches for their own use, but we are trying to break into the meat market as our next target. Ostrich meat is like that of turkey, but of low fat and cholesterol, very succulent, beefy and actually a healthy red meat. Though, I have not slaughtered mine for eating as the ones I have been selling are for those who want to breed theirs, but I eat it whenever I travelled to South Africa or Kenya. I am also looking at the direction of tanning them to start the leather production.
Your Advice For New Entrants
Arinze advises farmers and agric business enthusiasts to give ostrich farming a try. This is because ostrich is obviously the meat of the future. A lot of people are no more eating cow meat because of its high cholesterol content, so people coming into ostrich farming now stand a lot of chances of making it because of its profitability.
Source : Nairaland.