Starting a Emu Farm
Before starting an Emu farm, you should understand some of the basic things. A good planning is required. First of all decide the land. The land should be preferably dry, non-water clogging area. Before bringing the Emu, plant some trees for shade in the border of the fence, plan the layout, with separate place for various age birds, storage of feed, watering area, incubator / hatching unit.
Purchase of birds can be started in any of the following ways.
- Buy eggs and hatch chicks – Require the least capital initially, provided eggs can be obtained at reasonable cost. However production is at least 2 years away.
- Buy started, sexed chicks (8 weeks) - Reduces the problems involved is hatching and early brooding. It can be more expensive than eggs. Again, production is at least 2 years away.
- Buy Juveniles (year – old birds) – Offers the opportunity to select birds within a year of sexual maturity.
- Buy proven breeders – The expensive route, but enables the producer to begin production immediately. Disadvantage of purchased mature breeding pair is higher investment, immediate hatching cost, and no knowledge about pairing and less experience with the birds.
- Buy combination of above – In general, ideally purchase Emu chicks of 3 – 4 months old. Chicks of this age have excellent livability and very less mortality.
Average production figures
The figures presented below below should be used as a guide only
Age at sexual maturity: 2 years
Number of eggs/year: I st year breeders: 8-12
Under Artificial Incubation:16-24
Male: Female ratio in breeding Emus: 1:1 or 1:2
Weights at: Hatch: 420 g
3 mths: 4-5 kg
6 mths: 14-16kg
12 mths: 20-22kg (slaughter age)
24 mths: 40Kg (breeding age)
Facilities – Land, Fencing and Shelters:
The facilities required to establish a small Emu farm or ranch are minimal. Emus can be successfully raised in small pens or large pasture or a combination of the two. Fencing can be chain link 2 inch by 4 inch wire. The recommended height in 5 to 6 feet for adult bird, for small birds, 3 feet height chain link (2 inch by 2 inch wire) is preferred.
One breeder pair of Emu can be adequately maintained in a pen 25 feet by 60 or 10 feet/100 feet with an 8 feet by 8 foot shelter, covered on two or three sides.
Stocked with between 5 to 10 pairs of Emu breeder in 100 feet X 100 feet area. Farmers are run colony pens during the summer and moving the breeder pen into smaller pen 25’ X 60’ when breeding season approaches.
Grow out pens:
Chicks of 2 to 3 months and above of a similar size are kept from 20 to 50 birds in 50 feet X 100 feet area they are ready to transport to a processing (slaughter) facility.
The chick is moved to a chick run any the tape in removed at 4 days old, it stays in this run until it is 2 – 3 months old. During the day, ft the weather in not too cold or windy, we open the outside doors and let the chicks roam the outside run. The inside run in covered with straw which is changed as necessary. Newly hatched chicks, maintain temperature of 90 to 95oF. The brooder boxes for chicks 1 to 3 days old should be about 1 feet height and 2 X 3 or 3 X 4 feet in area per 10 chicks.
Handling of Emu birds:
Handling of Emus may be necessary for the reasons of moving the birds from one location to another, identification, sexing, or medicating bird etc. Emus are usually docile and non-aggressive.
Wing hold method:
The most common way to handle adult size birds in to approach the bird quietly (walk don’t run), once you are close enough, grab it quickly and firmly from the side or behind by both wings. Allow the bird to get over its fright by letting it jump up or down a little while still keeping your hold on it. Then, if your purpose in catching the bird is to move it somewhere, propel it forward while moving behind or alongside it (still retaining your grip on the wings) so that the bird’s energy in used for forward motion rather than jumping in attempts to escape. The best time of day to handle Emus in early morning or late evening.
Dog collar & Leash method:
An easy way to make the collar in by using 2 large dog collars clipped end to end to make a large collar. A leash can be fastened to one of the rings. Catch the bird and place the collar over its head. Slide the collar to just in front of the drums and make sure it is behind the wings.
Emus require simple food. You should plan feed as per the age of the bird. Emu require plenty of water to drink. Always keep fresh water in the pans.
In India there are no specific feed prepared for Emus. However one can start with regular poultry feeds with addition of greens. Alfalfa leaves, Lucerne, stylo, Desmanthus. Chopped green vegetables, cauliflower leaves, fruits like grapes, watermelon. Chicks and adult birds can be given crumble feed. You can also add Soya crumbles for additional protein.
Sprouted green gram can be given to Breeder birds at the time at breeding season to increase the overall reproductive performance.
Courtship & Breeding behaviour of Emu
Emus usually mature sexually between 18 months to 28 months of age. Since Emu is a wild bird, allow the birds to move freely and select their own pair in the colony pen. Their courtship is a ritual, which is must watch for any Emu breeder. Both male and female, strut and display the neck feathers. The male walks around the female and both come opposite to one another. The male takes a lead in necking and the pair starts circling. The male rubs his neck on the mane of the hen. The female makes a deep drumming sound (booming) and male makes a grunting sound. The female then sits with upraised plum. The male then mounts. The activity continues for nearly a minute. The male then leaves and the female the slowly walks away. Allow Emu to pair naturally from a communal pen. Non-compatible birds will fight. Many Emu begin producing in their second year. Emu lay eggs in the winter months usually between November to March. Initially during the first laying, the second egg would be laid after 8 – 10 days, But later on, eggs are laid every 3 – 4 days, with an average of 30 – 40 eggs / season. Some may even produce up to 50 eggs per season.
Incubation & Hatching of Emu
The three most important factors in the incubation and hatching of healthy, viable chicken are temperature, humidity and plenty of fresh air flow. Depending on the climatic conditions where you live the range of most commonly used indicator is room temperature (65 – 80oF), Incubator temperature (96 – 98oF), Hatcher temperature (97 – 98oF), relative humidity (25 – 60%), wet bulb temperature (72 – 85oF) and incubation period (47 – 53 days).
Successful incubation of eggs is vertical and air cell up. Turn eggs four to six times / day. Egg weight loss is important and 15% in the ideal. A weekly system of egg weighing and good record keeping are essential. Eggs should be transferred to a hatchery when internal piping starts. After hatching, the chicks should be allowed to remain in the Hatcher only for the time sufficient to provide for drying without dehyotration. A chick that is up and moving about in ready to be moved from the machine. On the average, the holding time after hatch should be about 12 hours. For the next 24 hours, the chick should be kept in warm brooder box without food or water while it metabolizes the yolk – sac. Before shitting the chicks to shed, make sure that they have started eating and drinking.
Egg tapping is a common practice during the incubation period. The purpose is to determine when the chick has broken into the air sac so that assistance can be rendered if required. By tapping on the large end of the egg with a small blunt instrument the sound you get before the chicks breaks into the air sac will be of a higher frequency then the rather hollow sound after the breakthrough.
Two basic types of incubation can be used – natural and artificial to date most Emu farmers use artificial incubation
In natural incubation the male Emus go broody and are allowed to sit on the eggs.
When young females begin to lay, eggs are commonly laid at random throughout the pen After a time or the onset of maturity a nest site will be chosen and eggs are then laid at this site Dispersed eggs are rolled together and often camouflaged with dry grass, sticks and leaves etc by the male Emu
The rate of lay is slow initially with several days between the early eggs. The rate increases to one egg every three days or so towards the end of the clutch
After some 6-10 eggs have been laid the mature male will go broody and begin sitting on the eggs Further eggs laid near him are rolled under to join the others over a few days the male will slow his metabolic rate to a point where he sites on the eggs full time, will not eat or drink and only stands several times a day to roll the eggs It is advisable to remove other birds from the pen when a male begins to sit because group penning may result in fighting and egg damage and not allow the male to settle properly.
Once a male is fully broody by can be approached quietly and gently lifted to check the condition of the eggs
The incubation period for Emus is 56 days but it is good policy to check daily from day 50 to see if any chicks have hatched
If chicks are to be reared in a brooder house they should be removed at this daily cheek and taken to the brooder house.
If you are leaving the chicks for the male to rear you should remove all unheated eggs
After the male moves off the nest At an early age the chicks are prone to wander and care is needed to prevent predators such as crows, hawks and foxes killing them
Natural incubation requires more space and pens to move birds into and especially so if the male is left to rear the chicks if you plan to do this you should get further information on this subject before starting because it will require different procedures
There are problems associated with natural including the potential for bacterial contamination of eggs especially in wet conditions some eggs will be in the pen two to four weeks before the male sites During this time daily temperature fluctuations may trigger the embryo to begin developing and the low night temperatures may then kill the embryo this is known as pre-incubation
Despite these problems reasonable hatching rates are possible using natural incubation
For artificial incubation, eggs are collected once or twice daily and placed and placed in an incubator.
At this stage prevention is the only effective method of controlling aspergillosis in Emus
Prevention should be aimed at three broad areas
1) Removal or control of favorable areas for fungal growth
This would include such things as removing wet litter not using damp or mouldy straw/ hay as litter or food, not using or removing spoiled grain and regular provision of fresh non- dusty litter
2) Dust control in brooder sheds
This is an important area as dust in the air of brooder sheds appears closely associated with infection with infection of young chicks.
Dust is most likely to be raised when litter is being removed or raked over. In these cases it would be worth lightly damping down the litter so dust is not raised when it is moved
Good quality litter will also help. A coarse litter of wood chips or pine wood shavings appeasers to work well litter that is already dusty may only contribute to the problem
Attention to hygiene can prevent aspergilla numbers building up to point where problems occur this needs to be done in all stages to the end brooder stage
Eggs should be fumigated and / or washed in a recognized egg sanitizer used according to directions
The cold storage room the incubator and the hasher should be fumigated or cleaned regularly with a recognized disinfectant active against fungi
The brooder house should be cleaned and disinfected before the hatching season begins. If individual pens are cleaned out during the breeding season they should be disinfected.
The development of leg deformities has been cited as a common problem in captive bred Emus with clinical signs usually appearing within the first two months of life A number of different possibly interrelated conditions may be involved as well as calcium/phosphorus imbalance and methionine deficiency Maternal nutrition may also be implicated Interestingly, feed restriction has similarly been found effective in reducing theses disorders in meat chickens However the incidence of leg deformities has not decreased in the past 40 years despite an intensive research effort in this area
Chicks hatched in incubators in incubators have to be brooded artificially until 6 weeks of age This period may have to be extended depending on the outside environment and condition if the weather is warm chicks should have access to outside runs during the day 1-2 weeks of age
Before birds are transferred to be brooding area the yolk sack or navel should be treated to combat the introduction of disease organisms Suitable products are buffered iodine or antibiotic power
During articulate brooding the chicks needs for the following must be met
Marks are expanding and there are there are moves towards an Australian industry focus and the development of cooperative market arrangements
There is still tremendous faith in Emu meat, Emu leather and oil as high quality products
The development of an industry quality- assurance program for products
Research is focused on product development and gaining Therapeutic goods agency registration for the unique properties of the oil
Production technology is well developed
Meat, skin and oil are the major products from Emus, carved Emu and small quantities of the Emu feathers are also sold
Emu meat is a low –fat low-cholesterol (less than 0.05%) meat which has a slightly ` gamey` flavor The most valued cuts come from the thigh and the larger muscles of the drum or lower leg.
The Emu body- skin is characterized by a raised area around the feather follicle which produces a distinctive patterned surface It is a fine but strong leather the leg skin has a distinctive scale pattern and is used in leather accessories and to highlight other leathers
Emu fat is rendered to produce an oil which is used in cosmetics and therapeutic products Emu oil is said to add a certain quality to cosmetics and while it is claimed that it is penetrating and effective in the treatment of muscle and joint pain research.