Emus, Ostriches, and Rheas – all
flightless “running birds” - belong to the same class: “Aves”. Emus
resemble ostriches somewhat in appearance, but are significantly smaller
and more easily managed. Ostriches have a reputation of aggressive and
comparatively difficult manageability.
Emu young are
striped, and with a shorter neck than an Ostrich, and most find that Emu
are more esthetically pleasing to the eye. As well as being more docile,
peaceful, and even timid, compared to ostriches, this brown and bluish
tinged bird has become increasingly popularized lately for many reasons .
Emus have been
taking the exotic world by storm in the last ten years. These exotic birds
are native to Australia unlike their African cousins the Ostrich, and
their South American counterpart, the Rhea. But all have in common similar
appearances and physiology, and belong to a group known as "Ratites".
Emus are raised
today commercially for meat, feathers, fertilized eggs, unfertilized eggs
(which are hand painted and turned into beautiful, valuable ornamental
treasures), waste shells, and their hides. Growth in the current North
American industry resides mainly in breeding stock.
statistics approximate the numbers of farms currently raising Emus (1996
Agricultural Census first recording Ratites) at 86 registered breeders,
with a count of 61,308 birds total for all of Canada. Certainly this
number has stabilized since 1996, and the continued and growing demand
specifically for Emu-oil products, has established the Emu industry and
given it a stronghold, where so many other types of exotic farming has
perhaps declined in popularity.
Ratite ranching has become
popular in the past few years, where production of red-poultry has been a
successful venture all over North America, since the 1970’s. And although Emu have been successfully raised for meat along with the larger Ostrich,
Emu breeders have now discovered what has been known for centuries in the
Outback of Australia. The healing properties of the oil-derivative from
the fat of the Emu has become more widely popularized on a global scale
for successful treatment of many skin and pain related ailments. This
magical oil has been used for hundreds of years by the Australian
Aboriginal people, and is a relatively new discovery in the Western world.
health-food stores and online, Emu oil is being reported has
having healing properties making many dermatologists and general
practitioners take notice. Containing Vitamin E, which is an anti-oxidant
and healing agent, Vitamin A known for its skin repairing qualities, as
well as Sapogens for skin softening, and Terpines for antiseptic healing,
Emu oil is being used in the treatment of those with severe burns, skin
ailments, Fibromyalgia, and sports injuries and many other countless skin
and pain related injuries and diseases.
successes with the use of Emu oil cannot be substantiated by the FDA or
endorsed by government agricultural authorities, however the testimonials
and commercial success of the oil being sold for these uses supports the
findings of those who’ve discovered first hand the array of benefits from
using Emu oil and related products. Such significant successes have
prompted more government research to discover and isolate the active
components in Emu oil.
Rich in fatty
acids, the Emu fat contains predominantly mono-unsaturated oleic acid.
These oils are also used extensively in the cosmetics industry,
particularly in North America and Australia. Anti-inflammatory properties
and skin de-sensitizing properties have been known to successfully treat
severe burn patients, resulting in faster healing.
Certainly the Emu industry is on the incline and is expected to continue in the very
near future. With rising costs of hay and grain for traditional commercial
farming, diversification is becoming a necessity to the survival of the
family farm. Finding marketable and quality products that can be produced
from a livestock venture is something many farmers are looking into.
But choosing to
enter the world of Ratite farming can certainly have its own challenges. Emu stand fully grown at a height of 6 feet, and a weight of approximately
130 pounds. Because of their height and the high speed at which they can
run, fencing must be six feet in height minimum.
Nesting of the
dark green eggs, (incubation takes 2 months) if done naturally, is
entirely completed by the male bird. Most breeders choose to use a
mechanical incubator, and fertilized eggs are readily available from most Emu farms for sale for this purpose. Egg incubation can be a tricky and
complicated procedure to the inexperienced, and as the cost of a single Emu egg can be as high as $30 per egg.
However, one of
the largest benefits of raising Emus is that a very minimal amount of land
is required for their husbandry. They need no pasture, and housing
requirements are minimal. Emus can and do thrive in colder climates, and if
one researches well and does their homework before purchasing breeding
stock, a successful venture could very well be on the horizon.
facilities for Emu oil in Canada are rare, and much of the oil is
processed in the U.S. As the fat must be refrigerated during shipping
under the rendering process begins, shipping can be quite costly. There
exists a renderer on Vancouver Island (Canadian Emu Oil Ltd.) as well as
in Ontario however. An adult Emu yields about 4-5 litres of oil dependant
of course, on slaughter weight and feed. Emu oil wholesales for
approximately $5 an ounce, CAD.
Both the Ostrich
and Emu industries seem to have reached a plateau after many uncertain
years of ups and downs, and both have established themselves in terms of
longevity and sustainability.
Much useful and
excellent information is available online and through print sources such
as Critters Magazine out of Alberta, and the Canadian Emu Breeders’
Association, that will aid anyone who is interested in learning more about
or venturing into the wonderful world of Emus.