Although many people are unaware, ostriches produce more meat than cattle and contain the least fat, calories and cholesterol of all meats (beef, chicken, pork, lamb and turkey). Because they are not as common as other meats, ostrich produce fetches a very high and handsome price. Mamadou Coulibaly is an ostrich farmer with a flock of 3,000 birds in his native Mali. His income in 2011 was $1.4 million and continues to grow in leaps. In a world that is more than likely to switch to low-calorie and healthier meats in the near future, Mr. Coulibaly is positioning himself to cash in on the huge opportunity. Read on to find out more about this amazing business.
Mamadou started his ostrich farm in 2008 with about 100 birds. Today, his farm, which sits in the village of Banguineda, located South of Bamako (the Malian capital) has grown to 3,000 birds. Far from satisfied by this astounding success, he intends to grow his ostrich flock to 10,000 birds by the year 2014, making it the largest ostrich farm in the whole of Africa. This man has a big vision for a big bird that brings in big profits!
Apart from a few farms in South Africa, North America, Europe and Asia, ostriches are probably the least farmed birds in the world. This is quite shocking given the amazing features of the ostrich that make it such a lucrative agricultural venture. So, when Mamadou decided to start his ostrich farming project, he sought the help of a Korean company with specialist experience in raising and managing ostriches on a commercial scale.
Mamadou, who also owns a crocodile farm, houses his ostrich eggs in a high-tech incubator which is a major part of his strategy to expand the size of his flock to 100,000 ostriches in the long term, making it the world’s largest ostrich farm!
To give you an idea of the profitability of this venture, an ostrich egg can fetch up to $500, a breeding ostrich can sell for up to 5,000 US dollars and those with feathers which are highly prized in fashion and décor circles can be sold for up to 3,000 US dollars.
Short video: Mamadou on his ostrich farm in Mali
Why should anyone be interested in starting an ostrich farm and how can you make money from it?
Ostriches allow the farmer to make higher and quicker returns on investment. In recent years, a number of European and American beef producers have converted to ostrich farming because of its amazing profitability. Some serious comparison here would be great.
A typical cow produces one calf every year. This calf will be ready for market in two years and produce about 250kg of beef at slaughter. An ostrich produces up to 40 eggs every year and these chicks usually reach market size in about 14 months yielding meat that weighs up to 1,800 kilograms! In addition to meat, a single ostrich (including its offspring) can produce up to 50 square metres of leather and 36 kilograms of feather… in just one year!
Photo credit: wallsforpc.com
If properly managed, a single female ostrich can produce up to 72,000 kilograms of meat, 2,000 square metres of leather and 2,000 kilograms of feathers during her economic (productive) lifetime.
Compared to other traditional farm animals (cattle, goats, pigs, fish, chicken and turkey), ostriches are quite easy to raise and most ostrich farm projects turn out to be very successful. The most important period in the life of every ostrich is the first 3 to 5 months of its life when a good and balanced diet containing the sufficient quantities of important nutrients are required.
The market for ostrich products
One of the reasons why ostrich farming is so profitable is because of the number of valuables an ostrich has on offer and very little ever goes to waste. Ostrich eggs, meat, hide (leather) and feather are very highly priced and command high prices on the local and international markets.
As we mentioned earlier, ostrich meat is by far the healthiest alternative to our traditional meat. It has lower fat, calories and cholesterol than beef, chicken, turkey pork and fish! In contrast to chicken and turkey (which are classified as ‘white meat’), ostrich meat is a “red meat” similar in colour and taste to beef. A huge portion of all the meat from an ostrich comes from the leg, thigh, and back. Because ostrich meat is very lean, they are fast becoming a favourite with people who want to live healthy but still love read meat. Ostriches give these people the best of both worlds! (photo credit: oregonostrichllc.com).
According to the Maasai Ostrich Farm in Kenya, ‘a well-fed eight to ten month-old juvenile ostrich produces 45-50 kg of meat on-the-bone and sells for US$12 per kg. Steak fetches around US$24/kg, and US$28 for fillet.’
Comparing ostrich versus other meats (per 100 grams serving)
|Type of Meat||Protein (%)||Fat (Grams)||Calories (KCal)||Iron (mg)||Cholesterol (mg)|
*Figures are cooked portions with knife-separable fat removed.Source: USDA Agricultural handbook #8 and Hill Nutrition Associates of Florida for all except Ostrich. Ostrich: Texas A&M University System meat studies 1993 (cholesterol determined in four major muscles) and 1996 (weighted average of measurements on ten major muscles).
Compared to cattle (which yields less than 3 square metres of leather a year, an average ostrich (offspring included) will average about 50 square metres of leather. That’s more than ten times the return in a single year!
Ostrich skin (hide), with its characteristic and distinctive ‘goose bump’ look is a very high-quality, thick, soft and extremely durable leather product that fetches one of the highest prices in fashion shops and boutiques. A lot of fashion enthusiasts consider ostrich leather to be very luxurious and equal to (if not better than) snake or crocodile leather.
Ostrich leather is currently used by many major fashion houses including Hermès, Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. The leather is used for a wide variety of products including jackets, bags, shoes, purses, caps, wallets and belts.
Ostrich leather products… (photo credit: pierotucci.com; thatshop4you.com and selectism.com)
The best feathers come from ostriches bred in the dry and semi-dry regions of the world such as Africa and the Middle East. As a result, the quality of feathers produced from ostriches raised in Europe and North America differs in many respects from those produced in Africa.
Ostrich feathers are used to make feather dusters for cleaning fine machinery and equipment as well as for decorations, furniture stuffing and in the fashion industry. It also has wide application in creative arts and has proved to be a very versatile and popular material.
Eggs and Livestock
As expected, the ostrich lays the largest egg by any bird in the world! An ostrich egg is roughly the size of a football and can weigh almost 2 kilograms (approx. 1 pound). A mature female ostrich can lay up to 40 of these eggs in a single year!
As the size of the international market for ostrich grows, the demand for live exports is also on the rise, with markets as far afield as France, Holland, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Africa and China.
How to start an ostrich farm – A couple of things you should know
We’ve looked at the economic and business potential of ostrich farming, it’s now time to look at some of the things you need to successfully start your own ostrich farm. This is by no means a full business plan. You should see this as a checklist that helps you organize your thoughts while you’re considering this business.
Registration – It’s always good to make sure that you are licensed to operate an ostrich farm in your area. Registration used to be overlooked before the bird flu epidemic. Nowadays, operators of bird farms (poultry) are required to be registered and licensed with a government agency. You should double check and make sure you don’t run afoul of any laws or regulations.
Breeding – It’s usually advised to start with a breed stock of 1 male and 2 – 4 females. Depending on your location, a mature breeder (male or female) could cost from as low as $800 up to $5,000. Ostriches are very fertile and can lay up to 40 eggs throughout the year. However, a female ostrich stops laying eggs if she has to incubate them. For all-year round production, eggs must be moved to a machine incubator on the facility. In many areas, ostrich chicks may suffer high mortality.
Space, equipment and facilities –
Well, if we haven’t told you yet, you should know that ostriches than grow to be 9 feet tall and can reach speeds of 70 miles per hour. Yes, these guys can run! They need a lot of space and the geography doesn’t matter. Ostriches thrive very well in all climes including deserts, grassland, forest regions and swamps.
You may be unable to successfully breed these guys in small and confined spaces. They typically need a lot of space to thrive. A family of four birds would need up to ½ an acre of space for optimal results. Ostriches also drink a lot of water so a nearby and steady source of clean water would be a great idea.
Feeding – Ostriches are very adaptable birds and can survive on quite a wide variety of foods. Ostriches in the wild feed on insects, rodents (rats and mice) and even grass! But if you’re raising them for profit, it makes a whole lot of sense to provide good quality, balanced and nutritious poultry diets so they can grow well and fetch a handsome market price!
Putting it all together
Ostrich farming has been aptly called a ‘business of the future.’ From the current market economics, the benefits from this venture clearly trumps other traditional livestock (including cattle, chicken, pigs and turkey). Although the startup costs are higher than other types of livestock, its payout can be huge.
If you have any experience in this area or know a little more about it, we’re sure a lot of people reading this would love to learn from you. Please leave a comment in the section below or share this opportunity with a friend.
To your financial success!
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