Kochi, Apr 11 : As the chicken industry is finding hard to take off due to avian flu and its implications, people in Kerala are seeing future prospects in Emu farming.
Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), the largest bird native to Australia and also the second-largest in the world by height after its distant cousin, the ostrich, is now finding space in Kerala.
Emu cannot fly and it can grow up to 6 feet (2m) in height and 30-45 kilograms (66 -100 pounds) in weight.
Many entrepreneurs in Kerala are preparing to take it as a new opportunity due to its high returns from its oil, meat, skin, feathers, nails and even its huge colorful eggs, used for ornamental purpose.
A new entrant in the field, Domnic K.J of Fort Kochi in Ernakulam District of Kerala, started his farm 2 years back. He now seems to be happy with his 12 pairs.
"I started this after a lot of study on Emu and its farming process. Earlier people did not know about its benefit and its future prospects, but now many have started enquiring about it and some even asked for partnership business with us", he said.
According to American Cardiac Association, Emu meat contains very low fat and helps in lowering cholesterol.
Emu oil considered highly medicinal, is gaining popularity in the pharmaceutical industry and is priced around 4,500 rupees per litre.
Emu farming is not labour intensive and is compatible with other livestock rearing. The birds are also said to be highly disease resistant.
Another entrepreneur Nigil Hubert, who has just started his farm with few chicks says that the Emu farming can be run as a side business.
"The only constraint is space as it requires a plenty of space and in Kerala it is sparse. It is not tedious compared to poultry farming and requires less attention", he added.
Emus need space to roam freely and if cornered, they can get aggressive by kicking their feet at the target. An area of 3000 square feet is considered necessary for raising five pairs of Emus.
An Emu hen can be productive for 25 to 35 years or more and may lay 20 to 50 eggs in a season. A hen may start laying eggs as early as 18 months, but normally laying begins when they are 2 to 3 years old. A 14 to18-month-old bird would yield around 20 Kg in flesh and at least four litres of oil.
Using an incubator or hatchery, 49 to 52 days is the period needed for the eggs to hatch. Even temperature and dry lands are ideal for Emu farming. Areas where water is available in abundance are appropriate to practice this unique farming.