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Ostrich leather

Ostriches do not hide their heads in the sand. Sorry folks, but that's the truth. So where did this idea come from? The ostrich can be found feeding in the desert plains and when they feed, they have to bend their heads down almost touching the ground. Now when you look at an ostrich from very far, it looks like it has buried its head in the ground.

The leather of the ostrich has a beautiful grain. The grain of course is where the feathers grow, called quill marks. This makes the leather very desirable.

Stuff to Know

Ostrich (Struthio camelus)
Maximum size & weight:

The height an ostrich can grow is 2.5 meters high (8 feet).

The maximum weight of the Ostrich is 450 lbs (204 kg). This is in Holzmeister Ostrich Ranch, Oakley, Kansas, USA.

Maximum age:
Ostriches can grow up to 40 years
Ostriches are not protected.
Where it lives in the wild
The ostrich can be found native to the African savannas, but after 19th century, ostrich farming became popular due to the demand for ostrich feathers.
Where is it farmed?

Ostriches will thrive in temperatures between 30° and -10°, that is why they are found in over 50 countries.

The Feather Capital of the World is in Durban, South Africa, having the largest concentration of ostrich farms in the world.

Dangerous to humans?
Oh Yes!. A kick can kill. Ask Johnny Cash, the famous American singer.
Afraid of humans?

No, but are always curious and like to peck at bright shiny objects. They walk up to you for a closer look, and then, suddenly peck at your eyes. Well, they are shiny looking for the ostrich.

People injured yearly

An instance recorded by the British Journal of Opthalmology about a case of injury from an ostrich. It has noted that a farmer had his eyes pecked, the right eye being seriously damaged (medical terms like proptosis, ultrasound examination, tomography scan, etc). The effect of the damage was mentioned as "total loss of vision to no light perception." In short, the farmer was blinded in his right eye because of the ostrich. It goes on to say, most people consider incidents like this as uncommon, incidental or even humurous and leads to why there is lack of detailed information.

It's a long way of saying, "Sorry folks, no data available."

People killed yearly by

Johnny Cash (famous American singer) released an autobiography and mentioned an incident that he was nearly gutted out by an ostrich kick (Cash: The Autobiography {Mass Market Paperback}).

People, it's very real that one can get killed by an ostrich. We just don't have the information because as mentioned above, incidents like this are either uncommon or incidental.

Is meat edible?

Yes. They have a "cherry red" color, so are classifed as red meat but without the cholesterol and fat compared to beef. I'll have mine medium well-done, please.

Oh and eggs, too. The ostrich egg is the largest egg. When hatched, it weighs about 1 kilogram! Imagine a dish of scrambled egg made from it!

Taste of meat
Like beef, low in cholesterol
Living habits:

When in the wild, they usually live in nomadic herds of 5–50, slowly roaming plains going from one pasture to the other, or just avoiding predators. A herd will have one dominant male that will mate with the dominant female, then all the females in the herd. The females will lay their fertilized eggs in a single communal nest, a simple pit scraped in the ground and about 30–60 cm deep. Ostrich eggs can weigh 1.3 kg and are the largest of all eggs, though they are actually the smallest relative to the size of the bird. The nest may contain 15–60 eggs. The eggs are incubated by the females by day and by the male by night, making use of the different colors of the two sexes to escape detection. The young hatch after some 35–45 days. Typically, the male will tend to the hatchlings.

Eating habits:

They mainly feed on seeds and other plant matter; occasionally they also eat animal matter such as locusts. An interesting fact about their digestion is that they lack teeth. Because of this, they swallow pebbles so that helps them to grind the swallowed foods in the gizzard (a very muscular stomach). They can go without water for a long time, exclusively living off the moisture in the ingested plants. However, they like water and frequently take baths.

One other thing about the pebbles. They become smooth as the result of all that grinding inside the gizzard.

Farming style:
  • Ostrich start breeding at 2 to 5 years old. Eggs are laid early spring to autumn, weighing between 1 to 2kg. They are collected daily from the nests and incubated for 42 days at 35 to 36.5°C. Chicks weigh about 1kg at hatch.
  • Breeders can be run in pairs, trios (1 male to 2 females) or colonies of up to 40 birds, with a minimum of 1 rooster to 5 hens.
  • Breeders must be fed a breeder feed to get optimum performance.
  • Chicks can be reared completely indoors to 8 weeks, or outdoors with heated sheds.  Newly hatched chicks need to be kept at 28 to 30°C and fed 3 to 4 times a day for the first week, with a minimum of 20°C at night for the next 3 weeks. Chick rearing is labour or capital intensive.
  • Young chicks are fed on specialised pellets/meal containing all the essential amino acids, protein, energy, and trace elements they need.
Harversting weight and size:

Ostrich are slaughtered at 9 to 14 months at about 100kg live weight and 45kg-carcass weight to produce about 28kg of high quality meat. Skin and feathers are by products of the meat.

Skin processing:

The skin is fleshed and then soaked in water to remove dirt, blood, salt and other excess fats. The animal hide is fleshed; the flesh is removed from the surface of the hide.

Then the hairs are removed by soaking the hide in a lime solution. This loosens the hair from the skin. Then the hide is scudded; removing of the hairs by using a dull knife.

Then the lime is removed (deliming), ready for tanning.

The tanning process is a chemical process. The skin is treated in either vegetable solution (tanin) or in mineral solution (chrome, for example). The treatement, depending on the desire product. Vegetable taning will produce stiff leathers and mineral taning will produce soft leathers.

Leather durability:
It is the strongest type of leather.
Leather softness:
Flexible (supple), yet tough.
Other Leather features:
Distinctive quill pattern and suppleness makes it unique, due to the feather growth on the skin surface.
Leather relative value (1-10) in finished products.

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