Step by step guide to start Emu farming

How to start Emu Farming

Emu bird is the national bird of Australian continents and it is a very attractive bird. It comes under “Ratite” species like ostrich. Emu farming has been tried in India for quite some time due to its useful values for human. Emu has high size and body weight along with reasonable reproductive fitness. It has longer life span even reported as 30-40years. It has been reported to lay average 35eggs and normally hatcheries expect70-80% hatch with standard hatching practices. Fertile eggs are collected keeping Emu as pairs with sex ratios of 1:1. Body weights of Emu have been reported as about 350-400gms at day old, 10kg at 15weeks of age, 25kgs at 35weeks of age and adult breeding time body weight touches around 45-50kg and can consume around 1kg feed a bird per day or little less during adult. Further it has been reported, first egg can come by 2years time or little late. As regards feed conversion for an Emu could be around 6:1 at adult age.

Step by step guide to start Emu Farming
Step by step guide to start Emu Farming


Emu the second largest flightless bird under the group ratites. Emu is scientifically classified as Dromius Noveahollandiae along with other members of the group ostrich, kiwi and rhea, other flightless birds. Emu is native to Australia. Aborigines in Australia utilized these birds for their basic needs like food, clothing and for treatment . Presently, Emu Framing is spread all over the world with significant population in U.S.A, China, Australia including Asian countries. Emu is becoming popular for having 98% fat free red meat and other utilities obtained by products namely; Emu oil, skin, feathers and ornamental eggs and toes. Emu farming in India is in developing stage. An NRI of West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh started Emu farming for the first time during 1998. Later breeding flocks spread over entire country for commercial purpose . Presently, emu farming is being carried out in large scale in States of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka and parts of Kerala. Since 2000, Department of Poultry Science, Veterinary College, Venkateshwara University, Andhra Pradesh is doing pioneer work in the areas of research on Emu. Central Poultry Development organization & Training Institute, Govt. of India, established an organized Emu unit during 2007, with a foundation stock of 30 pair breeding stock for expansion and to act as National Centre for Emu. ( presently about 12 months of age).

Emu Farming as  business:

Bird is a very tough bird with majestic appearance due to its height and look covered with brown feather coat. Emu farmers make the farming viable depending on the emu product sale like meat, feather, skin, oil which have demands in specific markets designed. More so the farming community tries to produce Emu chicks through hatching of eggs and sale the birds in pairs after due management and get good realization of value. Now when we consider the commercial viability of Emu farming by selling products it has been reported oil contribute significantly along with skin and Emu meat in the demanded market. But when we consider the cost of production of meat alone it looks expensive due to high FCR thus it demand superior price per kg of meat. Again to introduce any tender meat of Emu for higher price it would lose other sale values on paired grower stock sale, oil, skin etc., due to age effect. Thus this bird could not so far gain the required position for selling tender meat say by 20wk of age which become unviable. When we intend to derive all commercial products like oil, skin, feather etc., from the bird then only it justify the economical viability or commercial project viability subject to regular demand of products with reference to quality of such processed marketable products (oil, skin, meat, feather etc.).There need to be more processing infrastructures to make these Emu products attractive and gain market values which perhaps may come up in the Emu propagating locations through joint venture activities to support Emu farmers for economical values. Processing activities for skin, oil, feather and also for meat (if desired) is now highly essential for boosting such commercial projects. Systematic collections of raw out puts like emu fat, feather, skin etc., are needed and also links with such processing units, so that quality of each commercial output can be preserved for developing final valuable products for consumers as expected. Such chain linkages are not visible widely with better technology so as to translate in to attractive ventures. Emu meat processing has also to be planned along with collection of other out puts so that the meat can be marketed gradually in the demanded markets. There are reports available that some restaurants are now serving Emu meat preparations and getting popular but to locate volume of the market we need to have processing technology involved in Emu sector.

Other possibilities of common platforms for Emu propagation for commercial viability would be to support regular production and marketing introducing integration programs which may attract investors in this sector.

Is it comparable with growth, reproductive fitness, and marketability with chicken?

Meat production could be from any meat producing animal and birds which are responding to controlled breeding programs and selection technique. Any objective changes in any species for commercial production program need to have population size and pedigree information so as to have any genetic response for development in the desired traits . However gestation period of all such meat animal and birds are important criteria for expecting gains in the desired traits per generations for fast developments and deciding the standards. I observe there are many such birds like ducks, guinea fowl, Japanese quails, and turkeys which have commercial values for meat and egg too but could not be propagated by farmers widely so far as alternative meat production programs. The growth of such alternative poultry farming could not touch the levels which were expected at par with chicken meat and egg production. Again Ostrich and Emu could not get so far the expected status of meat producer birds all over world but such birds have alternate commercial values when we consider all its potentialities. For example other animals like buffalos, cattle, camels, horse, elephants all such animal have alternative values and human being explore those values in possible ways and keep bonding relationships while leading the social life on this planets. Even dogs have wonderful bonding relationships with human beings and it has tremendous social values as used as No.1 friend of human beings. Thus Pet culture is very important where there is tremendous friendship felt by human beings in which economics are not involved.

If I look to the arithmetic comparisons of Emu birds with chicken broilers with reference to growth and body weight it is simply not possible due to species difference. Chicken broiler parent female consume around 60-65kg of breeder feed from day one and in turn produce minimum viable 160 chicks from 188 hatch able eggs and having fertility 93% in 68weeks of age, time period. This in turn further generates to produce 320kg of live weight meat in 40days time in next generations. So when I consider chicken flocks, one female chicken broiler breeder generate meat in live weight is 325kg in total ,within a period of 75weeks time by spending 710kg of feed or so. If I look to the mathematical constants it could be 9.5kg feed/week and 4.35kgs of live body weight/week and FCR per week could be arrived at 2.2. Now let us see the case of Emu assuming 3years ie first year bird reach puberty and 2year produce about 35 eggs and third year required to grow up to 40kg body wt when breeding stock maintain sex ratio 1:1 in pairs unlike chicken 1:10 through AI. If I look to the feed consumption of the period of one female breeder and progenies body weights which could be achieved in 3years time then I see a figure of 1130kg body weight and feed consumed could be 1200 kgs for pair with 75% hatchability of the progeny numbers from total fertile eggs of 86%. Now mathematical constants which can be derived would be around 7.24kg/week live wt in156wks time consuming 51kg of feed/week and FCR could be arrived at 7.00. Thus in practical it is very expensive to have Emu farm as compared to chicken broiler farming unless other products like oil, skin, feathers are marketed at good price for which planned programs are needed. If I take up the project with the concept of selling Emu chicks in pair then it is very good but how to complete the cycle of marketing and end users of the bird?

What are the future prospects of Emu farming

In general it seems to me that the Emu farming has tremendous hidden values which need marketing strategies. The other part of the species is that “this bird can be an ideal pet” which can find place in any farm house just like other pets and birds. We visit Zoo and find Emu birds and all get happy to see such majestic bird. Happiness’ of human being has given space for any animal in accordance to financial status of the family. In the recent past Emu farmers could suddenly realized the direct marketing of Emu products are getting harder although the financial institutions could consider these farming projects considering the possibilities of market values. But it seems there is decline in one state and picking up in other state which is natural as all farming community expects good returns from their investment, labor and time.

Recommendations:

1-Emu farming in India can safely continue and new ventures are to be planned by investors for infrastructures on processing back up.
2-Intigration can be tried only when systematic approach is identified and planned for market .However in all such activities cost and benefit ratios are basic deciding factors for which investors have to come up.
3-feed cost can be reduced for this large bird during growing and maintenance period by introducing fodder and other cheap vegetables as part feeding practices. If needed all these vegetable items could be processed for easy digestibility and creating attraction for the bird at low cost.
4- The families of good status who have very fond of animals and birds need to be supplied Emu bird for their farm house only in pairs as these birds can live up to 10-15years easily at any place of India and would add to the beauty of the campus and keep happy all humankinds and create good bonding. This trend would create huge market demand in India the way people have bonding with good size dogs, horse etc.
5- Zoo sector and teaching sectors will have all time demands round the year on regular basis if the bird is available.

6- The size of Emu farming need to be decided as per the market availability in the area and good standard husbandry practices would lead to new path of progress in times to come.
Poultry industry in India is one of the fastest growing livestock sector in the country and is heading towards scientific modernization. The contribution of this sector to agriculture and total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during 2010-11 was 29.7 per cent and 4.07 per cent, respectively. Poultry industry in India, though one of the fastest growing segment of animal husbandry sector, uncertainty prevails in the mind of poultry entrepreneurs because of chronic and acute problems of high feeding cost, emerging and re-emerging diseases, vaccine failure and fluctuating market price of meat and eggs. Eruption of transmittable, zoonotic and communicable diseases to excess of heat or cold are the main threats to poultry industry which leads to massive deaths and sudden fall in production. All these conditions necessitate the poultry industry to be diversified with other species viz., duck, quail, turkey, emu, and ostrich. Out of these diversification Emu farming is emerging these days with two main purposes:

1. The first purpose is to breed birds – to increase the emu population, because of the high profits that can be made by selling adult emus as breeding birds.
2. The second purpose is to slaughter birds -to get the by-products like emu meat, emu oil, emu feathers, emu skin and emu nails.

Emu farming in India is still in primitive stage and the activity is rapidly increasing in size and number, by spreading into many states including Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Gujarat, Punjab, Manipur, Chandigarh, Orissa and Assam. This expansion is likely to continue in the coming years in many other states. Majority of the

existing emu farmers are rearing the birds simply to increase the number of birds further. Many small sized farms are emerging day by day but neither there is a census available nor any method been designed to account them so far. But, according to Indian Emu Association of India there are around 2000 farms with six lakhs birds in the country.

Emu provides different products of economical value. The prime cuts of emu meat can be ready for sale to restaurants, residential orders, worldwide markets and in the future, shipment to supermarkets. Emu fat is rendered to produce oil, which has dietary, therapeutic (anti-inflammatory) and cosmetic value (Rao, 2004). Emu oil is found to be more cosmetically acceptable with better skin penetration compared to mineral oil (Zemtov et al., 1996). Additionally, the medical industry uses the oil for therapeutic rubbing oil, skin and facial moisturizing lotions and medical applications used for treating the skin of burn victims.

Emu skin has a similar tensile extensibility to ostrich skin and a rigidity value comparable to pig skin (Hoven, 2002). Emu skin is fine and strong, leg skin is of distinctive pattern, hence highly valued (Rao, 2004). Emu leather is well suited for embellishing designer apparel, boots, wallets, handbags and many other accessories. The feathers of the emu birds are double quills, attractive and velvety to touch and they are in demand in the fashion, art and craft industries.

Zoological classification of Emu is as under

  • Kingdom Animalia
  • Phylum Chordata
  • Sub phylum Vertebrata
  • Class
  • Order Aves
  • Struthioniformes
  • Family Ratite
  • Genus Dromaius
  • Species novaehollainde

Characteristic features of Emu
  • Height at birth 8-10 inches
  • Adult height 5-6 feet tall
  • Adult weight 100-140 pounds
  • Colour Black and Brown
  • Temperament Friendly and docile
  • Lifespan 30 years (approx)
  • Breeding method Mated in pairs
  • Productive years up to 25 years
  • Eggs per year 10 to 20 eggs in the first breeding season, gradually increases up to 20-30 eggs in subsequent breeding seasons
  • Age at slaughter 16-18 months
Natural food of emu are insects, leaves of plant and forages, different grasses, also eats different kinds of vegetables and fruits like carrot, cucumber, papaya etc. Emu chicks weigh about 370 – 450 g (about 67% of egg weight). For the first 14 weeks or till attaining standard body weight of 10kg emu chicks are fed with starter mash. Birds are fed with grower mash till their 34 weeks or 25 kg body weight. Finisher ration is offered from 35 weeks age to slaughter or up to 12 – 18 months age. Emu birds attain sexual maturity at 18 – 24 months age. First egg is laid around two and half years of age. Eggs are laid during October to February, particularly in cooler days of the year.

Physical features of Emu:

Emu chicks when hatch out have body stripes similar to squirrel, later as they grow after three months they lose the stripes to turn into brownish black feathers. Adult emu is a large bird up to 6 ft ht. with long neck and small naked head. Adult usually weighs 45 to 60 kgs. Legs are long and covered by scaly skin and it is tri ductile (three toes in the leg), entire body is covered by long feathers except part of the neck.

Sex differentiation:

Phenotypically emus look similar in both sexes. However, sexing is done on day old, based on feather sexing, vent sexing by identifying male organ and sound differentiation on maturity. Identification of emus is done usually by painting different colours on the legs, leg strips and micro chipping. Male emu after maturity makes grunting sound and female makes drumming sound.

Breeding of Emu:

Emus attain sexual maturity by 18 to 24 months. Breeding occurs during winter season (October to February in India). They are monogamous indicating one male for one female. In nature, the female mates with the male during breeding season and gives a clutch of eggs. Later, male sits for brooding on these eggs for a period of 52 days without food and water. However, the female continues to breed with new partners during the whole breeding season. The chicks hatched out follow the male emu rather than the female.
In commercial farming emus are paired in separate enclosures after maturity depending on the compatibility of the pair. Emu generally gives eggs during evening between 5.30 to 7.00 p.m. Each adult emu after three years can give an average egg production of 30 eggs during breeding season between October to February.

Hatching of Emu eggs:

Emu eggs are emerald green in colour weighing about 600 to 800 grams. The incubation period in emu is about 52 days. Eggs are collected on regular basis and are stored in a cooler temperature of 600F maximum up to one week. Later they are set in incubator machines which are specially designed to hold emu eggs with a dry bulb temperature of about 960 to 970 F and wet bulb temperature of about 780 to 800F (about 43% relative humidity) up to 48th day, with regular turning mechanism every one hour. From 49th day, the eggs are shifted to hatcher, wherein till 52nd day they are kept. Emu chicks hatch out on 52nd day naturally, sometimes assisted hatch is also carried out manually by helping the chick to come out by opening the shell at the head and toe positions. The normal hatchability is about 80%.

Chick Management:
Emu chicks weigh about 370 to 450 grams ( about 67% of the egg weight). For the first 48 to 72 hours, emu chicks are restricted to Hatcher itself for absorption of egg yolk and proper drying. The brooding shed is prepared well in advance with thorough cleaning and disinfection and flooring covered with gunny bags to prevent slipping of legs of young chicks. Emu chicks have long legs and are very active, slippery flooring will make emu chicks to have hip dislocation resulting in irreparable damage. A set of brooder is arranged for about 25 to 40 chicks giving four sq.ft. per chick for first three weeks. Brooding temperature of 900 F is provided for the first ten days and 850 F till three to four weeks. Feed and water are provided ad lib and a brooder guard of 2.5ft height is placed. Feed starter mash for first 8 weeks. Provide sufficient run space for the chicks to have healthy life. Hence, floor space of 40ft x 30 ft is required for about 40 chicks with outdoor space.

Grower Management:

As emu chicks grow they require bigger size of waterers and feeders and increased floor space for run. Grower mash is fed till 34 weeks of age. 10% greens can be offered, de-worming of the birds is done once with broad spectrum anthelmatic /ivermectin and vaccination with R2B at 8th week and repeated at 40th week. 40ft x100 ft space is provided for 40 birds.

Breeder Management:

Emu birds are seasonal layers and monogamous, they require different nutritional requirements which are varied during breeding season. A pre breeder ration with high protein and micro nutrients is given to prepare for breeding. During breeding the feed consumption is reduced to fifty percent. After breeding maintenance ration is given with low protein and low energy.

Housing and Feeding of Adult Emus:

Emus are reared in open paddocks which have chain link fencing of 2×2 or 3×3 enclosure with 2 ft. concrete wall construction , on this chain link , mesh of 6 ft. ht. is erected. Night shelter is optional with usual asbestos sheet roofing of 6 to 8 ft. Emus need balanced diet for their proper growth and reproduction. Feed alone accounts for 60-70% of the production cost, hence least cost rations improve the margin of returns over feeding. In commercial farms, feed intake per emu breeding pair per annum varied from 394-632 kg with a mean of 527kg. Feeding is given in feed troughs which are usually hung on the fence and water is given in specially designed water tank or troughs with good drainage. Feeding is done twice daily and water is provided ad lib.

Health care and management:

Ratite birds are generally sturdy and live long (80% livability). Mortality and health problems in emus are mainly in chicks and juveniles. These include starvation, malnutrition, intestinal obstruction, leg abnormalities, coli infections and clostridial infections. The main causes are improper brooding or nutrition, stress, improper handling and genetic disorders. Other diseases reported are rhinitis, candidiasis, salmonellosis, aspergillosis, coccidiosis, lice and ascarid infestations. Ivermectin can be given to prevent external and internal worms at 1 month interval beginning at 1 month of age. In emu, enteritis and viral eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) have been reported. In India, so far few outbreaks of Ranikhet disease have been recorded based on gross lesions but not confirmed. However, the birds vaccinated for R.D. at the age of 1 (lasota), 4 (lasota booster) weeks; 8, 15 and 40 weeks by mukteshwar strain had better immunity ( Rao, 2004).

Products of Emu

Various products of economic importance obtained from emu are as under:

1. Emu meat :
It is about 98% fat free red meat, which is similar in look to other red meats viz., beef, mutton, deer meat etc. Emu meat is rich in iron and vitamin C. The tenderness and texture of Emu meat enables it to be fit for preparations which are lightly grilled and pan fried, since emu meat is low in fat, it loses moisture quickly and is best under moist heat cooking.

Table 1 Composition of cooked Emu, Beef, Pork and Chicken

Composition Emu Beef Pork Chicken
Moisture (%) 63.1 59.5 60.7 63.1
Protein (%) 33.0 28.6 28.6 27.4
Fat (%) 2.3 9.6 9.8 9.7
Ash (%) 1.3 1.2 1.4 1.0
Energy(Kg Cal/85g) 130 178 178 174
Iron(mg/85g) 6.0 2.1 0.8 1.1
Vitamin B-12(micron gm/85g) 1.96 1.70 0.61 0.27
Thiamin(mg/85g) 0.36 0.08 0.78 0.06
Vitamin(IU/85g) 8.6 0.0 6.0 61.2

2. Emu Oil:

Emu oil is semi solid white mass, which is generally located all along back of bird, but when it is processed and refined it is a clear liquid. Emu oil fatty acid composition is almost similar to human skin, which makes it to have high permeability when applied on to human skin. This property of high permeability is made use for delivering specific drug molecules for treatment of various skin condition as:
• Anti-inflammatory
• Moisturising
• Cholesterol Reducer
• Bacteriostatic
• Penetration Enhancer
• Significant epidermal proliferators
• Non- Comedogenic
• Significant wound healer
• Significantly reduces recent keloid scarring
• Faster healer of burn with less pain and scarring
• Anti-Arthritic
• Excellent Emulsifier
• The bird is able to see up to a distance of 10 meters and its eyes are being used to replace damaged corneas in human beings.

3. Emu Skin:

Emu skin is of high quality with usual yield of about 6 to 8 sq.ft. per bird, which is used in preparation of leather products including apparels. The leg skin is very unique and with scales similar to crocodile skin and is being used in protective coverings for knives, swords and shoe top etc. Emu skin is very soft it can take up any colour and hence can be decorated with a variety of colours. Emu skin can fetch handsome money in international market.

4. Emu feathers:

Emu feathers have double rafts with sub branching , the down feathers are soft and are being used in preparation of brushes specifically used in cleaning hard ware and circuits of electronic goods including computers.

5. Emu eggs and Toe nails:

The unfertilized eggs which are emerald green are cleaned and used in crafting antique mementos for sale with different carving on the shell. Emu nails are also been used as key chains, pendants in necklaces.
Opportunity of Emu Farming in India

In India, chicken is the most popular of the poultry species, followed by ducks and quails. Of late, we need to diversify to other species of poultry in order to reap more profits. Emu is a social bird with dark whitish complexion. The birds live in groups and can thrive under varying climatic conditions ranging 0° C to 52° C. These birds are omnivorous and eat leaves, vegetables, fruits, insects, worms. They can be fed modified poultry feed. At present there are four Emu Associatison in India. They are – at Hyderabad as Indian Emu Association”, Mumbai – “National Emu Assocation”. These two associations are working at all India level. And in Maharastra level at Baramati in the name of “Maha Emu Association” and another at Pune in the name “Emu Farmer Association”. The experience of the Association in these states has been encouraging.

Scope & Potential

Although emu farming offers great scope and potential because of its supplementary income, additional employment and simplicity in operation, it is a newly entered enterprise in Indian sub-continent, so practical availability of scientific information or published literature about emu farming is very limited. Less attention has been paid in carrying out research in this economically important species of birds in India. Efficient emu development can be achieved by promotion of small units in villages through a gamut of functions like dissemination of information and technology, making available various inputs and organizing training sessions for farmers on this subject.

Some Peculiarities about emu

a) Emu eats fruits, flowers, insects, seeds and green vegetation and love caterpillars. b) Emus require 6-10 litters’ good water daily. c) Emus require 3 times food per day. d) Emus are being raised in a variety of conditions ranging from the cold winters to the extreme heat. e) Female emu or hen begins laying eggs and male emu keep watch of incubation. f) The male waits until the female lays at least 9 eggs and then he starts incubating them by sitting on the nest. g) He incubates them for 52-56 days and doesn’t eat or drink during this time. h) Emu can reproduce for as long as 25 years.

Nesting, social and sleep behavior

Nesting takes place in winter. The male builds a nest by placing bark, grass, twigs, leaves, and few feathers in a shallow depression in the ground. The nest consists of a platform of grass on the ground, about 10cm thick and 1-2m in diameter. Five to fifteen eggs, measuring 130x90mm, are laid at intervals of 2- 4 days. These are dark bluish-green when fresh, becoming lighter with exposure to the sun. The shells are thick, with paler green and white layers under the dark outer layer. When eggs are fresh, they are dark green, but become almost black with time. Emus are solitary creatures and although they often travel in large flocks where there is food, this is not a social behavior. Emus are not really social. Exception is of young birds, which stay with their father with certain period of time. Young birds stay close together and remain with the male for four months. They finally leave from them at about six months. Immediately after the sunset, the emu lie down to sleep, although it may rise up to eight times during the night for the purpose of defecation and feeding. On an average, the emu will awaken every one and half to two hours. They rise for a few minute, stands to defecate and feed. This interruption to sleep continues from 10 to 20 minutes. In this manner emu is disturbed from six to eight times a night. The actual duration of complete rest is being up to seven hours.

Bio-security measures to be taken in emu farming/ breeding

1. Farm should ideally be placed and away from the population.
2. The fencing should be proper with adequate breeding facilities.
3. Proper disinfection procedures/ foot dips etc. should be maintained.
4. The quarantine sheds should be separate and away from other sheds.
5. Routine disease monitoring procedures like postmortem examination of dead birds and periodic sera antibody assay is recommended.
6. Water source should be tested for mineral, bacterial, chemical, contamination and pathogen load.
7. The other birds (parent, commercial or pure line etc.) and pets should not be reared/allowed to enter the same farm.
8. The brooding space should be optimum.
9. There should be provision of showers, change over and dips.
10. Proper storage of feed to prevent contamination should be made.
11. The water quality should be checked periodically and if contamination is seen it should be treated with any sanitizer.
12. There should be facility for disposing off/destroying the bedding / dead birds etc.
13. The equipment should be proper, properly disinfected and separated.
14. The farm should have a water sanitation system.

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