How To Become an Ostrich Farmer in 6 Steps (With Tips)
Updated June 30, 2023
Popular for a period in the 1980s and 1990s, ostrich farming experienced a decline but has begun to see a reemergence. Today, raising ostriches for resources such as meat, hides, feathers and eggs can be a profitable way to earn a living. If you're interested in pursuing this agricultural venture as a new career, it can be helpful to understand what the job entails and what it requires from its practitioners.
In this article, we define the role of an ostrich farmer, discuss some advantages of the job, describe the steps you can take to enter the profession and provide some tips for starting an ostrich farm.
Ostrich farmers raise ostriches as livestock to produce commercial goods like feathers, eggs and meat. The career may appeal to people interested in earning a high income while engaging in a more sustainable type of farming.
If you want to become an ostrich farmer, spend some time learning about ostriches, decide which commodity you'd like to specialize in, prepare the land you plan to raise the ostriches on and consider your options for feeding them.
Before starting your ostrich farm, you may want to pursue a college degree, research the licensing requirements in your area and locate a veterinarian who's willing to provide medical care to your ostriches in case they need it.
What is an ostrich farmer?
An ostrich farmer is an agricultural professional who raises ostriches as livestock—animals regarded and used as an asset. Ostrich farms comprising just a trio of birds can be as small as 1 acre or even half an acre. Aside from selling chicks or mature ostriches to breeders, enthusiasts and other agriculturalists, Farmers may choose to raise these animals to produce commercial goods such as:
Raising ostriches for feathers can be a sustainable form of livestock farming since the feathers grow back and feather cutting presents no harm to the animal. Many consumers prize ostrich feathers for their utility as dusters, owing to their natural ability to attract dust. They also have decorative value, and fashion and costume designers commonly purchase ostrich feathers to embellish garments.
Related: 12 Careers in Agriculture To Explore
A hide is the skin of an animal, often used for making leather. Ostrich hides are distinctive because of their dappled appearance, marketable qualities and high yield potential, with a single ostrich being capable of producing 50 square meters of leather. Leather produced with ostrich hides is typically soft, flexible and durable. These qualities, in addition to the distinctive appearance, contribute to the status of ostrich hides as a luxury commodity. Indeed, several high-end fashion houses produce bags, shoes, jackets and other accessories with ostrich leather.
Eggs and meat
Ostrich eggs, equivalent in volume to over 20 chicken eggs, are often sold emptied for decoration or craft projects, though some farms may sell edible eggs for consumption. Ostrich meat is commercially available as food, often promoted for its leanness and similarity in taste to beef. Ostriches produce red meat that is significantly lower in fat and cholesterol than in other animals.
Benefits of becoming an ostrich farmer
The following are some advantages of being an ostrich farmer:
Ostriches produce multiple commodities
A single ostrich can produce multiple commodities that a farmer can sell. Two of these commodities, feathers and eggs, involve no physical harm to the animal, allowing small farms to run a sustainable and profitable operation. Another, the hides, are a luxury good that can sell for high prices.
Ostriches have a better feed conversion ratio than cattle
A feed conversion ratio is a measure of how efficiently a livestock animal converts the resources it consumes to the desired commodity. The lower the ratio, the more efficient the animal is. Compared to beef cattle, another hide- and red meat-producing livestock animal, ostriches consume fewer resources relative to the resources they produce. The former has a feed conversion ratio of around six, meaning that it requires around 6 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of a commodity. In contrast, ostriches have a ratio of around 3.6:3.9, showing that they require fewer resources to raise.
Ostrich farming is relatively sustainable
A sustainable method of farming is one that allows a generation of people to meet their needs without significantly depleting the resources required for the needs of future generations. The smaller feed conversion ratio of ostriches means that they have a much smaller impact on the environment. Compounded with their smaller space requirements, this helps to make ostriches a much more sustainable choice for livestock farming.
Ostrich commodities can be profitable
A couple of factors lend to the potential profitability of ostrich farming. One is the luxury or novelty value of ostrich commodities, particularly hides, feathers and meat. The meat may be an attractive food item for health-conscious consumers or those interested in trying something new. The feathers and hides have consistent buyers in the fashion industry, and feathers have additional uses as dust removal tools in the automobile and home goods markets. Other parts of the bird, such as the eyes and the feet, may even have medicinal uses.
Another factor is the relative scarcity of supply relative to comparably high demand. Most livestock farmers raise cows, pigs or chickens, but an increasing number of consumers are looking for alternative sources of protein, and many are interested in novel commodities such as those provided by ostriches. To offer ostrich-based goods in such a market allows a farmer to enjoy relatively little competition while reaching a fairly large and diverse audience.
How to become an ostrich farmer
You can follow these steps to start a career as an ostrich farmer:
1. Learn about ostriches
Before you can begin to raise ostriches, it's essential to understand how they behave, how they interact, what they eat and other important facets of their characters and requirements. Increased knowledge in these areas can help to inform choices such as what subspecies to raise, how much space to devote to your operation, what structures to build on the property and what goods and services to acquire.
You can learn about ostriches through self-directed study with free resources from the library or online. You might also consider contacting established ostrich farmers. Try to locate farmers nearby and ask whether you can interview them about their operations. If you worry local operators may be reluctant to share information with a potential competitor, use the internet to locate and contact farmers in other regions.
2. Decide what you'd like to offer
An ostrich is the source of many sellable goods, and it's your responsibility to determine which of these you'd like to sell. It's a good idea to base this decision on the availability of your financial resources. If money is limited, a smaller operation is necessary, in which case it would be advisable to limit your offerings to indefinitely renewable goods such as feathers and eggs. If your resources are more extensive, you can diversify your offerings to include meat and hides.
3. Locate, acquire, prepare and divide land
Raising a trio of ostriches requires at least half an acre of land. Having more space is optimal, as it would allow the ostriches to run and live more happily. In terms of location, aim for a relatively quiet area that's removed from residential areas, with a source of potable water nearby.
Once you've found and acquired the land, prepare it by erecting a tall, strong fence around the property to keep your birds from escaping. Then determine how you'd like to divide the property for various farming purposes. At the very least, it's essential to dedicate a portion of the land to a protective shelter measuring at least 10-12 feet in height. Depending on your plan for the farm, it may also be necessary to consider devoting portions of land to activities such as breeding, incubation, rearing and slaughtering.
4. Choose a subspecies
The five known subspecies of ostriches are Arabian ostrich, Masai ostrich, black-necked ostrich, blue-necked ostrich and red-necked ostrich. The latter three are the more commonly farmed subspecies, with the black-necked ostrich being smaller and easier to handle. If you'd like larger animals and are confident in your ability to raise a more aggressive animal—or you intend to hire labor to manage your flock—consider the blue- or red-necked subspecies.
5. Consider feeding options
The food that you feed your ostriches can greatly influence their health and growth, which, in turn, affects how much of a commodity you can produce. The most economical and feasible choice for feeding is a ready-made feed. When shopping for feeds, look for options that contain the ingredients that are essential to ostrich sustenance:
A source of forage, such as alfalfa, which provides fiber
Grain such as corn
Protein such as soy
Vitamins such as A and D
Minerals such as phosphorous and calcium
Additives like amino acids and yeast
6. Purchase ostriches
The final step to setting up your ostrich farm is to purchase ostriches. You can find ostriches for purchase from established ostrich farms, particularly those that specialize in breeding ostriches. When it comes time to purchase, you can select unhatched eggs, chicks or mature birds. The first two options are suitable if you have limited financial resources, as they're usually more affordable, but they require significant time and effort to raise. Consider these factors when making your choice.
Tips for starting an ostrich farm
Here are some tips to consider before starting an ostrich farm:
Research licensure requirements
Depending on where you live, a special license may be necessary to raise ostriches, which some states classify as exotic animals. There are also licenses and permits relating to starting a farm and selling agricultural products. These requirements vary by state, so consider contacting your State Department of Agriculture or searching the United States Department of Agriculture website for relevant information.
Consider a college degree
Though a college education isn't necessary to start an ostrich farm, the knowledge you can gain in an academic setting can help you to establish a well-managed, safe, ethical and profitable operation. Consider a degree subject such as agricultural science, which is likely to include coursework that you can apply to the raising of ostriches—animal husbandry and veterinary medicine, for example. Another one to consider is farm management, which largely addresses the business and economic side of agriculture.
Related: How To Become a Farmer in 8 Steps
Find a veterinarian
Before starting your farm, locate and speak with a veterinarian who can provide routine and emergency medical care to your ostriches. A veterinarian is important for maintaining the health and happiness of your birds. Make sure that the medical care available in your area can accommodate large birds, such as ostriches. Ideally, find a livestock veterinarian who can visit your premises.
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