May 15, 2012 at 12:12pm IST

Emu farming gaining popularity

BERHAMPUR: Emu, the flightless bird from Australia, is gradually changing the trend of poultry farming in south Odisha.  Considered to be the second largest bird in the world after ostrich, though these amazing birds weigh 50 kg and run at 40 miles per hour, emus are far from being intimidating. This is the prime reason why emus are proving to be a boon to farmers in the State.
Emu farming for commercial purpose is gaining popularity in Odisha. As per the few emu breeders of the region, it is still in its nascence even though the farming may have gained momentum in Ganjam, Nabarangpur and Gajapati
 The oldest emu farm, however, is at Piatatali village in Chikiti block under Ganjam district which was set up about seven years ago by B. Mohan Reddy. The birds grabbed Reddy’s attention when he learnt about emu farms in Andhra Pradesh.
Soon after he started visiting emu farms in Rajahmundary and Hyderabad to acquire know-how on the birds and how farms are managed. Reddy took a loan of ` 20 lakh to raise 14 emus. In just three years, he has not only repaid his loans and but also made a neat profit.
Reddy says, “After my success many people across the  State are interested in learning about emu farming. I am giving them training and I have enough eggs and emus to supply them. There is a huge demand for this bird and scope for a lot of people to grow.”
Reddy, who also has an incubator, hatched 250 emu chicks last year. Each six-month-old chick was sold for at least ` 6,000 and thereafter they fetch ` 500 more with each passing month. Reddy now has 25 mature emu pairs in his farm.
 The farmer has entered into a buy-back agreement with a Tamil Nadu-based firm which collects all his emu chicks. Apart from TN, there is demand for the bird from Mumbai too.
These birds lay eggs from October to February and once in three days. Emu which live up to 40 years starts laying eggs just at the age of two, a prospective proposition. Taking chicks and know-how from Reddy, new breeders have come up with farms at Chatrapur, Aska, Balangir and Tangi. However, emu needs space to roam freely and if cornered, they can get aggressive by kicking the target, said Reddy.
The birds are even immune to bird flu, but have to be protected from other specific diseases, including encephalitis.
So what is so special about this ungainly bird? Every part of emu is good for health. Its meat may cost up to Rs 750 a kg as it is cholesterol-free. Oil extracted from the bird’s fat is used in beauty products. Its feathers are used in handicrafts and its skin is tanned for leather. Little wonder  several farmers across the State have taken to emu farming.