Emu farming was
first started by two Swiss families in Kalannie in Western Australia
in 1970. Unfortunately this farm demised after only 3 years.
then began to recognise the potential for emu farming and commissioned
Applied Ecology to establish a pilot farm at Wiluna in Western Australia
in 1976. As Wiluna is in a remote area of Western Australia, it
was difficult to obtain equipment, food, spare parts and experienced
handlers on a regular basis. Up until 1981, stock numbers were increased
and then the farm was handed over to the Ngangganawili Aboriginal
Community to manage. By 1986, 600 chicks per year were being produced.
then sanctioned the first private enterprise emu farm to commence
running after capturing 500 chicks from the wild to continue monitoring
the feasibility of emu farming.
In 1987, emu
farming became a reality and was passed through legislation. The
Government approved the sale of 500 chicks reared at Wiluna in August
1987 with a similar auction being held in 1988. A condition was
applied to the legislation that only captive or farm reared birds
were allowed to be farmed.
The first slaughtering
took place in 1990. By 1994 all Australian States permitted emu
farming and the industry produced an estimated 75000 chicks in 1994
and 110,000 in 1995.
interest in farming emus is increasing. The United States of America
is reportedly to have the biggest population of emus at 1.5 million
Meat, skin and
oil are the major products from emus; carved emu eggs and small
quantities of emu feathers are also sold.
emu business can be started in any of the following ways:
- Buy eggs
and hatch chicks - requires the least capital initially, provided
eggs can be obtained at a reasonable costs However, production
is at least 2 years away.
- Buy started,
sexed chicks (8 weeks or older) - reduces problems involved in
hatching and early brooding but will, of course, 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
- Any combination
of the above.
breeding stock, producers should avoid potential in-breeding problems.
Avoid purchasing cull stock and non-breeders. Obtain onoy guaranteed
breeders from reliable sources. Be realistic on price. Before attempting
such an undertaking, it is highly recommended that marketing information
for breeder birds and emu products be investigated.
raising emus vary and no two emu farms are alike so it is dificult
to predict production costs. Accurate expenses and profits can only
be predicted from the feed costs and the market value of emu products
and eggs within your market area.
One things to
remember in evaluating start-up costs of an emu farm is that the
cost will be amortied over the life of the operation. This will
reduce the cost per bird or egg over the operation's lifespan.
It is absolutely
essential that emus have clean water at all times. They must receive
food that provides adequate levels of protein and essential amino
acids, and meet vitamin, mineral and energy requirements.
be rinsed daily and scrubbed every 3 days with a mild discinfectant.
Inexpensive, water soluble vitamins and electrolytes for poultry
should be added (at the recommended level) to the drinking wat4er
for the first 1 to 3 weeks. The fat soluble vitamins-A, D3, E and
K-are compounded with a starch or protein emulsifier to enhance
dispersion and availability in water. This will ensure an adequate
intake of vitamins, particularly A and D3.
chicks should be starteed on a good quality emu starter ration containing
at leat 20 percent protein. However, some emu producers withhold
feed up to 72 hours in newly hatched chicks to allow for the complete
reabsorption of the yolk sack. The quality and health of the chick
should be carefully evaluated before withholding feed beyond 48
A starter ration
is formulated to provide all nutrients necessary for optimum growth
and health during the first 2 weeks of life, and it should be offered
in the crumbled form. All other feeds should be pelleted.
receive continuous light and have acess to the starter ration at
all times during the first 3 weeks. After that, they can be fed
all the starter ration they will consume in two short (20 minute)
daily feeding periods. Chicks should not be fed excess protein.
Too much protein may cause excessive weight gain, which can contribute
to leg weakness, leg abnormalities and death.
While emus do
require more fibre than other birds, high-fibre feeds can cause
intestinal obstructions in young chicks and result in "starveout"
feed any feed that is damp, moldy, musty or suspect in any way.
Botulism or mycotoxicosis leading to intestinal problems may occur.
Throw away damp or moldy food.
feed ingredients of emu feeds should consist of corn, wheat, and
alfalfa. Soybean meal should be mixed at no greater than 300 pounds
At 8 weeks of
age, chicks can be placed on a good quality emu grower ration and
fed what they will eat in two eaily feeding periods. Juveniles can
be switched to a maintenance diet at 25 weeks of age until they
reach sexual maturity. Breeder rations contain a high calcium level
and should not be fed to juveniles. The breeder diet should be fed
2 weeks prior to the expected first egg.
from one type of feed to another slowly. Begin mixing the new diet
into the diet which you have been feeding your birds. Initially,
mix 1/4 new to 3/4 present diet. After 4 days, mix the diets 1/2
to 1/2. After 8 days, mix the diets 3/4 to 1/4 to the old diet.
After 2 weeks of this process, the new diet should totally replace
the feed from which the change was made. It is very important to
make a slow transition. If a quick change is made, birds may avoid
the feed, or develop diarrhoea or other adverse responses may be
noted. A feeding program is only as effective as the management
practices that are followed.
be offered an amount of feed that they will actually consume. Forcing
the birds to clean up the feed on a daily basis results in the birds
consumig more balanced diet. This keeps the birds from picking through
the feed and excluding certain constituents from their diet. A feed
that is properly pelleted should not be a problem.
feed will be wasted, get wet and moldy or attract predators and
rodents. Non of these alternatives is very good for production.
Again, mangement is very important in accomplishing this recommendation.
The grower must monitor the birds' consumption very closely. Do
not assume that past consumption will predict consumption of new
formulations. If feed remains at night, it should be removed. Feed
the following day should be consistent with actual consumption of
the previous day. Growing birds may eat more in subsequent days.
If the feed runs out during the day, increase the feed input by
5 to 10 percent on the following day and record the results. Weighing
feed amounts and keeping good records will help establish feeding
programs for future birds.
as alfalfa, red clover, lespedeza, fescue or Bermuda grass are desirable
for juveniles and adults and will reduce production costs significantly.
Some forages may be too tough or high in fibre or too low in protein
and energy to provide the nutrient level required for desired growth.
If emus are
allowed to forage on natural grasses or grain, try to balance this
nutrient intake with the amount of commercial feed that is fed.
on pasture should receive daily supplements of a good quality, high
protein emu breedr ration to ensure optimum egg production, fertiligy
and hatchability. Breeders in dry-lot confinement also shouled be
fed the emu breeder ration.
not be allowed to become overweightl. Excess fat is detrimental
to egg production by breeders and to meat quality of birds that
are to be slaughtered.
emu breeding season begins in May each year and finishes in October.
Several weeks prior to this time, mating tracks can be seen in the
sand as compatible males and females respond to nature's call.
Prior to egg
production, the farmer needs to decide whether to naturally or artificially
incubate the eggs.
the natural option is chosen, this allows the male to sit on the
eggs to hatch them. Dispersed eggs are rolled together and often
camouflaged with dry grass, sticks and leaves, etc by the male emu.
In the early stages, there may be several days between eggs being
laid. The rate increases to one egg every two days or so towards
the end of the clutch.
After 6-10 eggs
have been laid, the mature male will go broody and begin sitting
on the eggs. Further eggs may be laid near him and are rolled under
to join the others. Over a few days, the male will show his metabolic
rate to a point where he sits on the eggs full time, will not eat
or drink, and only stands several times a day to roll the eggs.
It is recommended to remove other birds from the pen to eliminate
fighting or egg damage and to allow the male bird to settle. Once
a male is fully broody, he can be approached quietly and gently
liften to check the condition of the eggs.
period for emus is 56 edays 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 can be removed at this daily
check and taken to the brooder house.
If the male
is to rear the chicks, all unhatched eggs shoule be removed 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.
incubation required more space and pens to move birds into, and
especially so if the male is left to rear the chicks.
natural incubation: There is potential for bacterial contamination
of eggs, especially in wet conditions. Some eggs will be in the
pen for two to four weeks before the male sits. 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
knows as pre-incubation.
does greatly reduce the work load but may reduce the number of safely
farmers prefer to artificially incubate the eggs. If the eggs are
removed from the nest on a regular basis, the male does not sit
on the nest and this encourages the female to keep laying. Where
a "clutch" of eggs in the wild may contain 8-12 eggs,
an average of 20 or more eggs is not uncommon. A reason for this
is to lessen the chance of attack on the eggs by predators such
as foxes, wild cats etc. Another reason is that the male emu may
leave the nest completely during the incubation period, thus killing
the developing chick.
be picked up the day after they are laid,(sometimes twice daily),
with minimal human contact and vibration and transferred to a storage
area. Statistics are recorded for each egg, any dirt is gently brushed
from the eggs and then they are dipped into a commercially available
solution of egg washing discinfectant. The eggs are then placed
in trays to dry and settle for a few days at a temperature of 10-16
deg Celcius for up to 10 days. Batches are then set in the incubator
at regular intervals (setting batches at 10 days intervals is a
common practice). Note: A coolroom may be required.
The eggs should
be allowed to return to room temperature for approximately 12-18
hours then placed in the incubator.
are set to temperatures of 35.5 deg Celsius and a relative humidity
level of 45%. All eggs are rolled (by a mechanism within the incubator)
8 times per day through a rotation of 180 degrees. Daily checks
are made to determine any rotten eggs. Eggs should always be turned
an odd number of times per day, when turned manually. This ensures
that the embryo does not get stuck to the side of the shell and
eggs are incubated for 49 days and then removed into hatchers for
the remaining 7-10 days. The hatchers are located separate to the
incubators and run at a slightly lower temperature than the incubators
but with an increased level of humidity. The higher humidity helps
to moisten the internal membranes and soften the shell to assist
in the hatching process. Eggs are not turned during the period in
occur if the eggs are not collected regularly, fumigated and stored
correctly, incorrect temperatures and humidities are used during
incubation and hatching or cleaning and fumigation of incubator
and hatching compartments is not adequate.
The egg is a
living organism and needs to breathe. Fresh air (oxygen) is absorbed
through the shell and stale air carbon monoxide and other gases
are dispersed. It is extremely important that each day clean fresh
air is allowed into the incubator and hatching chambers in order
to satisfy this requirement. This is achieved by opening the doors
for short periods of time which occurs during manual turning, or
using the normal ventilation mechanisms of the machine.
the chicks are hatched, they are left for 12-24 hours before being
moved to brooder sheds. These sheds are usually a heated shelter
for raising the chicks. Each pen usually holds 50 chicks and is
warmed by an overheaed gas heater, essential to th4e survival of
the chicks especially in the earlier stages. Water and feed is available,
however, often the chicks will take several days before showing
any interest in them. Usually "Emu Starter Crumbles" are
If the weather
is suitable, the chicks, at around 12-14 days, are allowed outside
during the day into runs. This develops growth and ensures exercise
for the birds. These pens should be covered with anti-bird netting
to protect the chick from predators.
At four weeks
of age and again at ten weeks, all chicks are vaccinated against
a bacterial infection known as Erysipelas. Erysipelas can occur
in emus at yearling stage if vaccination is not carried out and
usually causes the eventual death of an infected bird. Erysipelas
thrives in wet, dirty, anaerobic conditions and causes a generalised
septicaemia in young gworing birds, 7-12 months of age, following
periods of stress induced by cold, wet weather and overcrowding
in heavily contaminated pens. While worms and body pests are not
a common problem, some farms have found it necessary to treat for
phase is probably the most time consuming part of emu farming. Making
sure chicks are watered, fed, exercised, kept warm and are housed
correctly usually results in healthy growing chicks. Cutting corners
will only result in in disaster!
Chick to Adult
When the chicks
have reached approximately 3 to 4 months of age, weather permitting,
they are relocated to larger uncovered pens and are no longer housed
They are now
classed as juveniles with much of their time pecking at anything
that takes their fancy. They are very inquisitive. Their surroundings
should be timbered or shrub country to provide shelter from the
elements and from each other if necessary. Often electric fences
are installed to keep out predators such as foxes.
the emus have reached approximately 16 months of age, those being
kept for breeding purposes must have their sex established to determine
numbers of pairs. An emu's sex is determined by internal manual
methods. Once this is carried out, identification is put on the
birds to easily tell the males from the females. This can be in
the form of paint colour on their feet or tags.
For a short
while, once the birds have been sexed, the pairs will match up by
themselves. These pairs often withdraw from the main group and find
a quet place for their mating ritual. Some farms place the pairs
in separate pens for breeding.
Emus seems to
adapt well to the cold winter rains, but they seek shade in summer.
If this can't be provided naturally from the bush, pens can be erected.
Grain is placed into "self feeders" on a regular basis
as well as a regular supply of fresh water.
need to be caught for medical treatment, tagging, sexing etc. This
can be painful and dangerous so the farmer needs to be cautious.
As the emu is so fast, it is impossible to catch them in a large
paddock. Usually the birds are guided along a fenceline. As the
bird runs past, one arm is quickly placed around its chest and the
other arm over its back to locate one of its small wings. Although
it will initially struggle, the emu will generally settle down after
a time. Emus have a tremendous ability to kick with their powerful
legs and can inflict serious injuries with their sharp toes. Fortunately
most emus can only kick forwards, thus all handling is conducted
from the rear.
are established and successful, then daily inspection of the breeding
pens will soon reveal a bright green egg, weighting approximately
600 grams. These are often covered with sticks or grass, but are
sometimes laid close to the fence line with no covering at all.
The cycles from
egg to chick, then juvenile to yearling and then to adult is a fascinating
cycle to observe and take part in.