Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are a health care professional

Loading

Nutrition in Ratites

By

Joeke Nijboer

, PhD

Last full review/revision May 2015 | Content last modified Jun 2015
Topic Resources

Also see Ratites.

Ratites are flightless birds and do not require the high-energy diets of flighted birds. Ostriches, rheas, and emus consume low-quality roughage in nature, which is fermented in their intestinal tract. The nutritional requirements of juveniles are much higher in protein and calcium than those of adults. Breeders have even higher calcium requirements (see Table: Selected Nutritional Requirements for Ratite Production a).

In most parts of the world, the commercial breeding market for ratites is declining; however, in some areas significant numbers of ostriches and nandus are being kept. Ratite production for meat and leather has necessitated the development of diets to maximize growth and minimize cost. Bringing an animal to market in minimal time is financially advantageous, but excessively rapid growth can lead to angular deformities of the legs.

Cassowaries are rainforest ratites and are primarily frugivorous. They are not raised commercially, and their nutritional requirements are not documented. Adult birds often consume 3–5 kg of food/day. Diets fed in zoos include fruits and vegetables such as bananas, apples, tomatoes, papaya, watermelon, grapes, mangoes, plums, nectarines, cherries, kiwi fruit, figs, sweet potatoes, and carrots. These are commonly supplemented with animal protein (eg, day-old chicks, mice, dry dog food).

Table
icon

Selected Nutritional Requirements for Ratite Production a

Diet

Age (mo)

Estimated Body Wt (kg)

Crude Protein (%)

Calcium (%)

Fiber (%)

Pre-starter

0–2

0.8–10.5

25

1.2–1.5

Starter

2–4

11–28

21.5

1.2–1.5

>4

Grower

4–6

29–52

17

1.2–1.5

>4

Finisher

6–10

53–90

13.5

0.9–1.0

Post-finisher

10–20

91–110

8.5

0.9–1.0

Maintenance

Mature

8.0

0.9–1.0

6

Breeder

Laying

14

2.0–2.5

8

aPortions reprinted with permission of Spix Publishing, Donnelly R., Clinical Avian Medicine, 2006.

Others also read

Also of Interest

Videos

View All
Managing Relationships With Your Producers
Video
Managing Relationships With Your Producers
Dr. Peter Davies of the Veterinary Manual Editorial Board discusses the importance of veterinarian...
Administering Antibiotics in Cattle
Video
Administering Antibiotics in Cattle
Dr. Peter Constable of the Veterinary Manual Editorial Board discusses the administration...

SOCIAL MEDIA

TOP