Located in the Klein Karoo, The Oudtshoorn Research Farm is about 8km outside Oudtshoorn in the Eden district. The 843-hectare farm focuses on research for the ostrich industry, the main agricultural enterprise in the region. It is the world’s first dedicated ostrich research farm, established in 1964 and remains an important local and international resource for ostrich research.
Three registered ostrich units are located at the farm: an export registered slaughter production unit where chicks are reared to slaughter age, a breeding farm for the breeding flock and a hatchery. Central to the research programme, is the ostrich resource flock, which consists of 150 breeding pairs used for research on genetic selection, crossbreeding and nutrition.
Flocks of three breeds of ostriches are sustained at the research farm:
The South African “Black”
The Kenyan “Red” and
The Zimbabwean “Blue”.
The genotypes and their crosses are evaluated for production and reproduction traits. Selection for the genetic improvement of growth and egg production traits over several years make these flocks a valuable genetic resource.
Oudtshoorn Research Farm hosts an annual ostrich auction; at which ostriches are sold. This enables farmers to benefit from the genetic improvement made with the research flock. Birds for these auctions are selected on breeding values for reproduction and weight.
The ostrich research team comprises of local and international scientists, technicians and students. Dr Anel Engelbrecht’s research focuses on improving leather quality, specifically the incidence and extent of pitting on ostrich skins in the South African ostrich leather industry. Dr Zanell Brand is investigating the effect of additional oxygen to the embryo development and hatchability during the late incubation stage, as well as the effect of different hatching positions on hatchability of artificially incubated ostrich eggs. Ostrich nutrition research, led by Prof. Ters Brand, includes the development of mathematical models to optimise growth for slaughter and breeding ostriches. His projects currently include the evaluation of locally produced protein sources in ostrich diets. Ostrich breeding research has been pioneered by Prof. Schalk Cloete, whose work on genetic selection has resulted in genetic gains for all major traits of economic importance in ostriches, including:
- Chick survival
- Qualitative and quantitative slaughter traits
- Mature live weight as well as feather dimensions and weight
He is currently evaluating ostrich genotypes and crosses for the development of slaughter production systems. Researchers from local and international universities also have active projects on the farm, in collaboration with researchers from the Directorate: Animal Sciences. The following projects based at the Oudtshoorn Research Farm are collaborations between Prof. Cloete and international scientists and local universities:
- Increasing production in ostriches by understanding compatibility between mating partners
- Investigation into steroidogenesis in the ostrich and improving ostrich welfare through developing good human-bird interaction practices. The researchers also work closely with the industry to ensure that research remains relevant
The Volstruishandleiding and the newly updated and translated Ostrich manual summarises the existing knowledge of ostrich farming in an accessible form. The authors are all experts in their fields and have shared their knowledge and novel research findings in these publications.
Oudtshoorn Research Farm: Celebrating 50 years of the world’s first Ostrich Research Farm (1964 – 2014) documents the rich history of the Oudtshoorn Research Farm.
The Oudtshoorn Poster Book is a compilation of posters presented local and international conferences by the research team.
Research Project Summaries (2012/2013) is an overview of some of the research projects being investigated.
For more information about research at Oudtshoorn Research Farm, please view the researcher profile pages and publications section of the website.
While the research at the Oudtshoorn Research Farm is primarily focused on ostriches, several crops have been cultivated and investigated on the farm. Alternative crops including figs, prickly pears and jojobas are grown on the farm. The farm produces about 800 tons of alfalfa annually and mainly uses of flood irrigation.
The farm also hosts other departmental programmes: Structured Agricultural Education and Training, Veterinary Services, Sustainable Resource Management, Farmer Support and Development and Rural Development Coordination that work together to support the agricultural community as a whole.