Twenty-three members of the Botswana Ostrich Farmer’s Association (BOFA) who took a benchmarking trip to Oudtshoorn in South Africa last November say they have learnt a lot about the industry and are now determined to embark on a real profit-oriented venture.
BOFA chairperson Thabo Mokwena said in an interview that among the lessons they learnt was that Botswana was still free from challenges such as influenza (bird flu), thus had no threats of under pricing of ostrich meat and other products; something that farmers here should capitalise on.
Other advantages Batswana have over the experienced South Africans are: political stability, the clean Botswana diamond industry as well as the reputed ECCO beef. These could be used as entry points into the lucrative European Union market, and even Asia where there is demand for ostrich products.
“While there, we were informed that there are three methods of ostrich farming. There is the intensive farming; which refers to the method similar to the feedlot one used in beef production where livestock is bought young, fed on closed places and later sold to abattoir for slaughtering. Secondly there is semi-intensive method where the birds are partially fed and let free to feed themselves in ranches. Thirdly there is the free hold method, which means the birds being kept in free ranches,” explained Mokwena.
He said BOFA they preferred to apply the intensive method.
“For best results, we were advised that we should start small. In the first year one should keep 20 to 25 birds, the second year, after learning the birds’ behavior, genetics and everything about them double that to 50 and elevate to 75 the subsequent year. It is only after knowing their behavior and genetics that you can label yourself a farmer,” he said.
Mokwena further said that they were advised not to breed and feed-lot the birds at the same time as it was risky; unless if one has farms at separate places. Though not a law, one need about four hectors of land to practice farming. Additionally there should be a borehole to ensure sufficient flow of water. In the intensive farming method, the birds are kept in closed areas to ensure they store energy and grow quickly and are ready for market.
Mokwena explained that ostrich farming could bring a lot of change into the country’s agriculture sector and significantly boost the economy including employment creation. In South Africa he said, the industry had created around 18 000 jobs.
Mokwena highlighted that the ostrich eats everything that chickens eat; as well as lucerne. He said for one to start an ostrich farm, one needed P750 000 for 100 birds.
The group was lectured on promotion of ostrich slaughtering, meat processing and packaging, marketing and leather processing.