Engineer to Farmer
Anders Friestad, a 57 year old telecommunication engineer, says “When I saw the news on BBC about the mad cow decease, I thought that ostrich could be a good alternative red meat. So I started studying about ostrich farming and the feasibility.”
Mr Friestad first came to Thailand in 1980 on the one year assignment to improve the PTT communication system.
“After the one year assignment for PTT, I soon worked for Thai telecommunication company, TOT, as a consultant. Then the expansion of DTAC occurred so I took the job as their field engineer. That gave me chances to drive around Thailand.” Mr Friestad says.
As a result, Pak Chong Ostrich Farm was eventually established in 2001 with a production capacity of more than 1,200 birds per annum. The farm is located on a 160,000 square meter plot of land in Pak Chong, Nakorn Ratchasima province. The farm is about 40 kilometers away from the main highway. The land is not suitable for any plants because it is very dry but good for the ostriches.
Of the 8,600 bird species which exist today, the ostrich is the largest. They are still found in the wild in certain parts of Africa, and are very well adapted to desert life, getting water from the plants they eat.
Ostriches sometimes reach a height of 2.6 meters and a weight of 135 kilograms, cannot fly, but are very fast runners. Ostriches can run up to 80 kilometers per hour constantly for over 30 minutes to out pace their predators.
An ostrich egg is about the size of 24 chicken eggs and It weighs from 1.2 to 2.2 kilograms.
The male ostriches have soft black feathers on their back with white primary feathers on the wings and tail. Females and all young ostriches have brownish feathers instead of black.
Ostriches have extremely good eyesight. They can see movements from 15 kilometres away and can recognize colour from more than 3 kilometres. Their eyes have two sets of eyelids. The first being opaque and blinks in from the sides. They are used to protect their eyes during sand storms. The other set of eyelids blinks similarly to human eyelids.
Ostriches are so powerful that a single kick at a predator, such as a lion, could be fatal.
Humans have had a close relationship with ostrich for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians farmed ostrich much the same way present day farming, which began in 1833, is run.
Ostriches are successfully farmed in at least 50 countries, from the coldest climates of Alaska to the hottest areas of central Africa.
The scientific name for the ostrich is Struthio (ostrich) camelus (camel-like).
Pak Chong Ostrich Farm
The ostrich in Pak Chong Ostrich Farm mainly grows for only meat and leather products. The ostrich meat has less fat than any other red meat and the ostrich produces the strongest leather available in the market. Also the ostrich oil is widely used for lotions and skin care products. However the oil is rather expensive because one ostrich only produces a small amount of oil.
“We have to slaughter the ostrich in our farm. We can not apply to be a slaughter house because ostriches, for the livestock department, are categorized in the same class as chicken. We will have to slaughter more than 100,000 ostriches per annum to register as a slaughter house” Mr Friestad says.
“The ostrich in our farm are totally Hybrid. Ostrich chicks grow from 1 kilogram at hatching to 40-50 kilograms within three months which is an average of approximately 500 grams per day and grow 1 foot per month for the height.” Mr friestad says.
“The bird flu situation doesn’t affect my farm because we have a very good farm managing system.” Anders Friestad also adds “Every worker has to wash up and change to the uniform that we provide. No visitor is allowed in the farm without showering, first. Every vehicle has to be sprayed with formalin before entering the farm. The procedures have been our priority since the farm was established.”
However Mr Friestad assures that the bird flu in Asia does not affect ostrich unlike the one in South Africa.
To avoid the birds from escaping Mr Friestad designed a double fencing system with concrete poles which will be changed to concrete stuffed iron pipe because the birds can easily break the concrete pole by just a few kicks.
The 160,000 square meter plot of land is divided into three parts; Offices and food storage, Green feed farm which is about 60,000 square meters and the rest is the ostrich farm.
The farm will expand and construct a breeding farm for another 45,000 square meters as well as raising the farm capital from 16.5 million to 21 million baht in 2005.
Engineer to Farmer