Ram Singh Bibyan, Balaga Sravani, Harneet Kaur, Sarita Kaushal, Pramod Kumar, Jannat Saini, Priyanka Patir, Prajakta Kailas Sangale, Lovely Anant, Somesh Rameshrao Gaikwad and Ashwani Kumar Saini*

Animal Nutrition Division

ICAR- National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal- 132001 (Haryana)

*STO, CIRB, sub campus, Nabha

carirsingh@yahoo.co.in; +91-9457602079

Emu (Droamius novaehollandiae) is the second largest flightless bird having poorly developed wings (Ratite) after ostrich (Struthio camelus); other members of the group include rhea (Rhea Americana); cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) and kiwi (Apteryx australis). Emu is very attractive and is the national bird of Australian continent. Emu is reared throughout the world with significant population in USA, Australia, China and Asian countries. In India, emu farming started in 1996 on a small scale in Andhra Pradesh. For commercial farming, the breeding flocks spread over entire India and is being practised in large scale in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil nadu, Maharashtra, Goa, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. Emu is becoming popular owing to low fat red meat and other byproducts utilities viz. oil, skin, feather, ornamental eggs and toes which are of high economic value. At hatching emu chick have squirrel like stripes on the body and after three months, the stripes turn into brownish black feathers. Emu chicks weigh about 370-450g (about 70% of egg weight).

Emu: The Majestic Bird

Characteristic features of emu:

  • Breeding: mating in pairs
  • Height at birth: 8-10 inches
  • Adult height: 5-6 feet
  • Adult weight: 45 to 60 kg
  • Colour: Black and brown
  • Temperament: Docile and friendly
  • Eggs per year: 10 to 20 eggs in the first breeding season; increases upto 20-40 in subsequent breeding seasons
  • Sexual maturity at 18-24 months
  • First egg is laid around two years of age and male keep watch for incubating the eggs.
  • Eggs are laid during cooler days (October to February)
  • Age at slaughter: 16-18 months
  • Long neck and legs having scaly skin and small naked head

Emu is tri-ductile (three toes in the leg)

Emu is generally easy to work with and has calm disposition. Emu is shy and can be quite curious and interested in shiny objects. Emu egg is around one pound in weight and has the most delightful and unusual green colour. Crafters like emu egg due to size and colour with tough, durable shell for decoration. A female emu takes 3-5 days to produce an egg and the incubation period is 49 to 53 days. On an average, an adult emu can supply between 20 and 30 pounds of good quality and flavouring meat. Emu meat is very low in fat and cholesterol content as compared to beef. Also, emu meat is a good source of vitamin C and E; protein ; and iron which contributes to the dark red colour of the meat. Emu oil, a side product is produced from the emu’s fat stores having several beneficial fatty acids like omega 9,6 and 3; and used as a natural skin moisturiser. Emu oil is anti-inflammatory that provides relief from muscle soreness, insect bites and sunburns. Emu oil is also used in several products (soaps, shampoos, lotions) Emu produces a distinct leather having a unique pattern of feather follicles. The leather is used in several personal items like shoes, wattles, handbags. Emu require a tall fence (6 feet) to prevent jumping over. For good health over-crowding must be avoided.

Sex differentiation: Sexing is done on day old chicks; based on feather and vent sexing by identifying male organ, and sound differentiation on maturity. Male makes grunting and female makes drumming sound.

Watering and Feeding: Sufficient drinkable water should be provided to meet the physiological requirement. Emu should not be deprived of water for more than 24 h in any case. Multiple water points should be provided in the area. Feed accounts for 60-70% of the production cost. Therefore, balanced feed for proper growth and reproduction should be prepared using locally available feed resources.

Starter phase: Starter mash is fed during first 14 weeks or till standard body weight of 10 kg is achieved. Brooding space is cleaned and disinfected. Chicks are very active and have long legs. Floor should be covered with gunny bags to prevent slipping which may otherwise cause hip dislocation. For first 24 to 72h chicks are kept in hatcher for drying and egg yolk absorption. Sufficient run space is to be provided to chicks for healthy life. The nutrient requirements for starter feed are crude protein 20, calcium 1.5, total phosphorus 0.80, methionine 0.45, lysine 1.0, tryptophan 0.17, threonine 0.50, common salt 0.4%; vitamin A 15000, vitamin D3 4500, vitamin E 100 IU/kg; vitamin B12 45ppb.; choline 2200, copper 30, zinc 110, manganese 150 and iodine 1.1 ppm. The starter feed containing maize 50, soybean meal 30, DORB 10, sunflower 6, dicalcium phosphate 1.65, calcite powder 1.5, common salt 0.3, trace minerals 0.1, vitamins 0.1, coccidiostat 0.05, methionine 0.25 and choline chloride 0.05% is to be provided. The crude fibre content should not be more than 9%.

Grower phase: Grower feed is given from 15 to 34 weeks of age or 10-25 kg body weight. The nutrient requirements are: crude protein 18, calcium 1.5, total phosphorus 0.7, common salt 0.3, lysine 0.8, methionine 0.4, tryptophan 0.15, threonine 0.48%; vitamin A 8800, vitamin D3 3300, vitamin E 44 IU/kg; vitamin B12 22 ppb; choline 2200, copper 33, zinc 110, manganese 154 and iodine 1.1 ppm. Grower feed containing maize 45, soybean meal 25, DORB 16, sunflower 10, dicalcium phosphate 1.65, calcite powder 1.60, common salt 0.3, trace minerals 0.1, vitamins 0.1, coccidiostat 0.05, methionine 0.15 and choline chloride 0.05% is to be provided. Crude fibre should not be more than 10%. Emu also eats fruits, flowers, insects, seeds and green vegetation. Emu loves to eat caterpillars.

Finisher phase: Finisher feed is given from 35 weeks of age to slaughter or upto 12-18 months age. Feed containing maize 60, soybean meal 20, DORB 16, dicalcium phosphate 1.65, calcite powder 1.5, common salt 0.3, trace minerals 0.1, vitamins 0.1, coccidiostat 0.05, methionine 0.02 and choline chloride 0.05% is to be provided. Feeding is done twice daily.

Breeders feeding:  Emus are seasonal layers and monogamous. Since feed intake is significantly reduced during breeding, protein and micro-nutrients rich feed is required. The nutrient requirements of breeder are: crude protein 20, calcium 2.5, total phosphorus 0.6, common salt 0.4, lysine 0.9, methionine 0.4, tryptophan 0.18, threonine 0.6%; vitamin A 15000, vitamin D3 4500, vitamin E 100 IU/kg; vitamin B12 45 ppb; choline 2200, copper 30, zinc 110, manganese 150 and iodine 1.1 ppm. Crude fibre should not be more than 10%. Feed containing maize 50, soybean meal 25, DORB 15.5, dicalcium phosphate 1.7, calcite powder 1.5, shell grit 6, common salt 0.3, trace minerals 0.1, vitamins 0.1, methionine 0.25 and choline chloride 0.05% can meet the breeder requirements. After breeding maintenance ration having low protein and energy is sufficient. Studies at CARI, Izatnagar revealed that feed intake per breeding pair per annum ranged from 400-630 kg with an average of 530 kg.

Incubation and hatching: Set the eggs in horizontal or in slant row-wise in a tray. Make the incubator ready for cleaning and disinfection. Set the optimum incubator temperature i.e. dry bulb temperature of 96-97F and wet bulb temperature of 78-80F (30-40% RH). Once the incubator is ready with set temperature and RH, place the egg tray in a setter. Fumigate the incubator with 20g KMnO4 + 40ml of formaline for every 100 cft of space. Turn the eggs every one hour till the 48th day in incubation. 48th day onwards, watch for pipping. On 52nd day, the incubation period ends. Keep the chicks for 24 to 72 hours in the hatcher for drying and to become healthy.

For small scale farming, shelter requirements are meagre. Simple shed having three- sided shelter is enough to meet the basic need. Emu provide red meat low in cholesterol and high in protein that is good for heart and the demand will increase in future. If the idea of emu farming sounds appealing, bring home first pair of emus and by adopting scientific farming, emu can definitely be a million dollar bird.

Effective communication between two buddies

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