By LILLIAN KIARIE
Kenya: Sh300 can buy you a host of different things, among them, an ostrich ride. Or if you are going with children, Sh150 for each of them. The experience on the back of an ostrich is best had at Maasai Ostrich Farm Resort in Kitengela, about 45 kilometres from Nairobi.
The farm offers you two key exciting opportunities: the chance to eat ostrich meat, and a ride on one of the birds.
But be warned, your first taste of ostrich meat will probably haunt you and you will want to get more of the delicacy.
However, your financial situation may curb your appetite.
A kilogramme of ostrich meat costs Sh3,000, while a 320-gramme portion will set you back Sh700.
But what if you didn’t have to limit yourself to a serving of ostrich meat only when your bank account reads just right?
What is holding you back from starting your very own ostrich farm and taking advantage of a bird whose one egg can feed 15 people or satisfy you for three days? And that produces more meat that a cow?
Ostrich meat has lower fat, calories and cholesterol than beef, chicken, turkey or beef. It may very well be red meat, which is rather dreaded by the health conscious, but despite it being similar in colour and taste to beef, it is very lean.
And to make the bird even more interesting, experts say that ostrich oil, which is made from ostrich fat, can be used to help treat asthma and other chest ailments.
The bird’s feathers can be used to make clothing, decorations and stuffing for pillows, duvets and seats. And if you read us regularly, you’re conversant with the profit potential in fly fishing — ostrich feathers come in handy for this, too.
Ostrich skin, which is hard and characterised by distinctive “goose bumps” makes a high quality, thick and extremely durable leather product that fetches high prices in fashion circles.
This exotic leather is appreciated by fashion enthusiasts for its supple and durable quality, and it is put in the same category as snake and crocodile leather.
According to one of the chefs at The Carnivore, one of Nairobi’s famed game meat restaurants, ostrich meat is in high demand, which has seen it attract high prices.
Ostriches also bring farmers a higher and faster return on investment. For instance, let’s compare the bird to a cow.
A typical cow will produce one calf a year, which will take around two years to get big enough for slaughter, when it will produce about 250 kilos of meat.
An ostrich, however, produces up to 40 eggs a year, and if the chicks hatch, they normally reach market size in about 14 months and yield an average 1,500 kilos of meat.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
But before you get into ostrich farming, you need to know your market, how to farm the bird and own a piece of land.
Mr Augustine Kipkoech, an ostrich handler at Maasai Ostrich Farm Resort, adds that one requires a permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service.
He says an ostrich egg fetches about Sh3,500 due to its rarity and large size; it weighs about 1.3 kilos.
A chick that is about a month old is likely to be sold at between Sh30,000 and Sh40,000. A year-old ostrich will set you back between Sh70,000 and Sh90,000.
The meat from an ostrich comes from the leg, thighs and back.
“You can distinguish between a male and female ostrich by their colours. A male one is black, while a female is grey. In Kenya, we mainly have the Maasai and Somali species, distinguished by a pinkish or bluish hue on their bodies, respectively,” Kipkoech said.
In Pakistan, the flightless bird of African origin is believed to have the potential to feed the world.
Ostriches have also been bred successfully in South and West Africa.
Mr Mamadou Coulibaly, an ostrich farmer from Mali, says his business based on his flock of 3,000 birds is valued at over Sh130 million. He started his ostrich farm in 2008 with about 100 birds in the village of Banguineda, South of Bamako.
He exports the birds to countries as far afield as France, Holland, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and China.
“You need adequate space to breed them as a male ostrich stands between six and nine feet, while females range between 5.5 and 6.5 feet tall at maturity. The birds can be hard to control and usually require about two acres of a well-drained area if they are a large number,” Mr Coulibaly told Malian media.
Also, avoid using barbed wire to fence the birds in as they could hurt themselves on it. Build a pen that is separated by hedges to provide more privacy during courtship displays. And create a clean sand pit for the birds to roll around in.
The birds drink several gallons of water a day, so you will need an adequate supply. Ostriches feed on crops and grasses, and eat smaller amounts than most other livestock.
Infectious and nutritional diseases are some of the major constraints to ostrich farming, but they can be avoided by attention to detail in incubation and chick rearing.
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