Mate choice, maternal investment and implications for ostrich welfare in a farming environment

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Maud Bonato, Michael I. Cherry, Schalk W. P. Cloete
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
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At present, the ostrich industry is inefficient, on account of being characterised by inadequate egg production, high embryo mortality, poor chick survival and suboptimal growth rates. However, as ostrich farming commenced only in the mid 19th century in South Africa, farmed ostriches have had a short period to adapt to the commercial production environment. Hence the poor production results observed could either reflect their failure to adapt to the farming environment, or alternatively, a failure of the ostrich industry to implement proper practices to meet the needs of this species. Limited research has been undertaken to identify and integrate behavioural requirements of ostriches in such environments, in order to reduce potential stress through improving both reproductive performance of the birds and their general welfare. In this paper, we review recent progress in our understanding of ostrich reproductive behaviour both in the wild and in farming environments, with a specific emphasis on female strategies to improve offspring fitness within the context of the ostrich polygynous mating system. In addition, we discuss production and welfare implications of the unusual ostrich communal nesting system, in a farming environment.


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