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Ostrich Facts & Products

Quick Ostrich Facts

  • Ostriches have the best feed to weight ratio gain of any land animal in the world.
  • They are successfully farmed in at least 50 countries – from the coldest climate Alaska to the equatorial areas of central Africa.
  • In NZ growing birds from 25kg to 100kg are fed mainly on mixed pasture with meal or grain, and added vitamins and minerals.
  • Ostrich have a higher requirement for many of the trace elements than other stock.  Correct nutrition is essential for good farming performance from ostrich.
  • The Ostrich is a member of the ratite family of birds.
  • The Ostrich is one of the oldest living species at 120 million years and when fully grown they have one of the most advanced immune systems known to mankind.
  • Ostriches are the second fastest animal in the world and can run at 64km per hour, maintaining this speed for at least 30 minutes.
  • Ostriches do not bury their head in the sand.
  • Almost all birds are from domestic stock from various parts of the world, but especially from Southern Africa.  The most common breed is the domesticated hybrid, the South African Black.  Other breeds are the Red Neck and Blue Neck.
  • Ostriches are very curious creatures and approach people readily pecking anyone or anything, especially shiny things. 
  • This is not aggressive though it can sometimes hurt.  Their only defence is a forward kick with their single sharp claw and this can be dangerous.  Generally speaking they are only aggressive in the breeding season or when abused –much the same as any other farm animal.

Ostrich Farming Facts 

Areas suitable for ostrich farming
In its native environment the ostrich has to survive a wide range of climatic conditions, ranging from above 30C to below -10C and including heavy rain and snow. Ostrich do best in an environment with lower humidity and rainfall. Ostrich are prone to fungi or bacterial infections when farmed under persistent wet or very humid conditions. They do best on free draining soils that do not waterlog.

Ostrich Finishing

  • Ostrich are slaughtered at 9 to 14 months at about 100kg live weight and 45kg-carcass weight to produce about 28kg of high quality meat.
  • From 30 to 100kg live-weight, ostrich can achieve good growth rates predominantly on good quality pasture.
  • Ostrich are run at a similar stocking rate as deer.
  • Ostrich must have extra trace elements added to their diet or an ostrich feed ration.
  • Ostrich have the best feed to weight gain of any land animal.
  • Deer fencing and yards are ideal for ostrich, however, sheep fencing topped up with a tape, and cattle yards converted with plywood to form solid walls, are acceptable.
  • Better suited to regions with moderate rainfall and lower humidity and low DDT soils.
  • Ostrich can be farmed with sheep or cattle.  NZ ostrich do not get worms or TB.

Breeding Ostrich

  • Ostrich start breeding at 2 to 5 years old. Eggs are laid early spring to autumn, weighing between 1 to 2kg. They are collected daily from the nests and incubated for 42 days at 35 to 36.5oC. Chicks weigh about 1kg at hatch.  A number of properties specialise in providing incubation services to other ostrich farmers.
  • Breeders can be run in pairs, trios (1 male to 2 females) or colonies of up to 40 birds, with a minimum of 1 rooster to 5 hens.
  • Breeders must be fed a breeder feed to get optimum performance.
  • An average of 26 eggs per hen was incubated in the 2001/2002 season, and 14 chicks at 7 days old survived.  The top hens produce over 30 chicks each.

Chick Rearing

  • Chicks can be reared completely indoors to 8 weeks, or outdoors with heated sheds.  Newly hatched chicks need to be kept at 28 to 30oC and fed 3 to 4 times a day for the first week, with a minimum of 20oC at night for the next 3 weeks. Chick rearing is labour or capital intensive.
  • Young chicks are fed on specialised pellets/meal containing all the essential amino acids, protein, energy, and trace elements they need.
  • Most farmers specialise in one or two areas of breeding, incubation, chick rearing or finishing. The industry is currently short of chick rearers.

Ostrich Returns

  • Fertile eggs ($25 to $30)
  • 1 day chicks ($50 to $80)
  • 30 to 50kg chicks ($130 to $200)
  • Finished slaughter birds ($280 to $470)
  • Breeding birds ($300 to$800)
  • Gross margin for finishing (4 to 12 months)  $40-$100/su,
    (New Zealand, South Island 2002.)

Benefits of Farming Ostrich in New Zealand

  • Profitable alternative to sheep, beef and deer.
  • High demand and prices for product and guaranteed minimum price for slaughter birds.
  • Few diseases, no drenching, TB or crutching.
  • Fast growing birds, 0.3 to 0.4kg growth per day in winter.
  • Slaughtered at 100kg live-weight in less than 12 months.
  • Good availability of 1 day old and 40kg chicks.
  • Shortage of farmers for chick rearing and finishing in the South Island, N.Z.
  • Information and resources available to help you get started.

Ostrich Products

The main products from ostrich are meat, leather, and by products of feathers, gizzards, offal and eggs. 
80% of NZ meat is exported to Europe, Asia and USA.


Ostrich meat is a red 99% fat free meat, low in cholesterol and 60% less calories than beef.


Ostriches produce the strongest commercially available leather.  The distinctive quill pattern and suppleness makes it unique.  It is used for shoes, handbags, briefcases and in the car and aviation industries.

Contact us now for more information or phone Brendan Best ph 03 308 9806


Files to download:
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Microsoft Word Document Ostrich handling & transport (30kB)

Ostrich cuisine