Ostrich farming, Ostrich eggs and Ostrich recipes
The commercial farming of ostriches first began in the 1850s when pioneering farmers located in Oudtshoorn, South Africa, saw great economic potential in the harvesting of ostrich feathers. Horse drawn carriages made large, dramatic hats fashionable. Ostrich feathers are some of the most intricate and grandiose in the world so it only made sense to use them in this new rage. During this period of the late 19th and early 20th century, South African ostrich farmers made a fortune. However, the good times came to an end. Henry Ford began to mass-produce the automobile which made large stylish hats for women virtually obsolete. The onset of World War I put the final nail in the coffin of the ostrich feather industry. The same barons who were making a fortune soon found themselves on the verge of poverty. The future of the ostrich industry looked very grim indeed.
Over the next 50 years the entire industry bottomed out and maintained a minimal presence in the world. This status quo would not last, however. In 1945 the Klein Karoo region near Oudtshoorn set up a cooperative of farmers and speculators ("KKLK") who would work together to build the ostrich industry. Eventually the demand for ostrich meat locally grew to a point where an abattoir was neede]. In 1963/64 the world's first ostrich abattoir was erected in Klein Karoo by the KKLK to supply dried and fresh ostrich meat locally .The marketing of ostrich skin started in 1969/1970 when a leather tannery was built near the abattoir. Prior to this, there is very little known about the tanning process of ostrich skin. Most likely, ostrich skins were sent from the abattoir to tanneries in England and then sold to fashion houses. It appears that a group of South African entrepreneurs set out earlier in the 1960s in search of ways to tan ostrich skin. "I will give anything to see ostrich skins used," said Gerhard Olivier. With Hannes Louw, Jurgens Schoeman and the tanner Johan Wilken, he traveled abroad for the first time in search of people who could tan ostrich leather. They came across Arnold and Dianne de Jager, founders of a tannery in London, who offered to train a tanner for Klein Karoo. In 1970, the first ostrich skin tannery opened in Klein Karoo.
In Roman times, there was a demand for Ostriches to use in venatio games or cooking. They have been hunted and farmed for their feathers, which at various times have been popular for ornamentation in fashionable clothing (such as hats during the 19th century). Their skins are valued for their leather. In the 18th century they were almost hunted to extinction; farming for feathers began in the 19th century. The market for feathers collapsed after World War I, but commercial farming for feathers and later for skins became widespread during the 1970s.
It is claimed that Ostriches produce the strongest commercial leather. Ostrich meat tastes similar to lean beef and is low in fat and cholesterol, as well as high in calcium, protein and iron. Uncooked, it is dark red or cherry red, a little darker than beef.
Ostriches are oviparous. The females will lay their fertilized eggs in a single communal nest, a simple pit, 30 to 60 centimetres (12-24 in) deep and 3 metres (9.8 ft) wide, scraped in the ground by the male. The dominant female lays her eggs first, and when it is time to cover them for incubation she discards extra eggs from the weaker females, leaving about 20 in most cases. Ostrich eggs are the largest of all eggs (and by extension, the yolk is the largest single cell), though they are actually the smallest eggs relative to the size of the adult bird. - on average they are 15 centimetres (5.9 in) long, 13 centimetres (5.1 in) wide, and weigh 1.4 kilograms (3.1 lb), over 20 times the weight of a chicken egg. They are glossy cream-coloured, with thick shells marked by small pits. The eggs are incubated by the females by day and by the males by night. This uses the colouration of the two sexes to escape detection of the nest, as the drab female blends in with the sand, while the black male is nearly undetectable in the night. The incubation period is 35 to 45 days. Typically, the male defends the hatchlings and teaches them to feed, although males and females cooperate in rearing chicks. The survival rate is low for the hatchlings, with an average of one per nest surviving to adulthood. Predators include hyenas, jackals, various birds of prey, and vultures.
Ostriches reared entirely by humans may not direct their courtship behaviour at other Ostriches, but toward their human keepers.