Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) and ostrich (Struthio camelus) birds belong to ratite group have high economic value for their meat, eggs, oil, skin and feathers. These birds are adoptable to varied climatic conditions. Although emu and ostrich were introduced in India, emu farming has gained much importance. Emu and ostrich features, management of these birds during chick, growing, fattening, breeding and non-breeding stages were covered. Care and hatching of eggs, nutrient requirements, healthcare and products of emu and ostrich were also covered. Economics of emu rearing with reference to the cost of maintaining breeders cost of production of eggs and chick were covered. Future research on nutritional requirements, incubation and healthcare management, and development of products for better marketing needs to be addressed.

Ratite birds have poorly developed wings and include emu, ostrich, rhea, cassowary and kiwi. Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) and ostrich (Struthio camelus) are reared commercially in many parts of the world for their meat, oil, skin and feathers, which are of high economic value. The anatomical and physiological features of these birds appear to be suitable for temperate and tropical climatic conditions. These birds can be well maintained on extensive (ranches) and semi intensive rearing systems with reasonably high fibrous diets. United State, Australia and China are leading in emu and of America ostrich farming. Emu and ostrich were introduced recently into India. Compared to ostrich, emu rearing is picking up. At present there are more than 10000 emus and only small numbers of ostrich are available in India. Of these 80% are in Andhra Pradesh. Emu birds are well adapted to Indian climatic conditions. Although emu farming is economical so far none of the farmers have entered in to the marketing of emu products. Commercial aspects of rearing emu and ostrich are dealt here.

Features of Emu and Ostrich

Emu has long neck, relatively small naked head, three toes and body covered with feathers. Birds initially have longitudinal stripes on body (0-3 months age) then gradually turn to brown by 4-12 months age. Mature birds have bare blue neck and mottled body feathers. Adult bird height is about 6 feet with a weight of 45-60 kg. There are no definite emu breeds but are captive bred. Legs are long covered with scaly skin adoptable to hardy and dry soil. Birds sit on their haunch and also walk frequently along the fence. Natural food of emu is on insects, tender leaves of plant and forages on different grasses, eats different kinds of vegetables and fruits like carrot, cucumber, papaya etc. Air sac hangs down loosely in females and is prominent during breeding season gives booming sound where as males do grunting sound. Often sex of the bird can be identified by these sounds during breeding season. Female is the larger of the two especially during breeding season when the male may fast. The female is the dominant member of the pair. The male emu sits on the nest. Emus live for about 30 years may produce eggs for more than 16 years. Birds can be maintained as flock or pair. The birds require fencing made of link chain of 2 x 4 inches with a height of 6 feet for adults. Sexes can be identified by tattooing on the skin of shank or by placing microchip under the skin.

Adult ostrich is of 2.4-2.8 meters height, fleshy thighs, rounded body; long legs with 2 toes weigh about 70-160kg. Thighs and legs are bare, uncovered by feathers. Males have black feathers with white rim on tail and wings. Females are brown or gray. Commercial varieties are blue neck (largest ostrich), hybrid blue (better egg layer) and red neck (smaller ostrich). Ostrich has long large intestine with long colon and developed caecum for digesting crude fiber. It has no gall bladder. Ostrich is reared for meat purpose. Rearing ostrich requires large facilities, greens or quality hay for better economic returns.