Farmer wants to rear ostriches in the Fens

A surge in demand for ostrich meat has prompted a Fenland farmer to diversify into breeding and raising the birds.

Farmer Gary Patrick has submitted plans to Fenland planners to build an ostrich farm in Murrow, on the outskirts of Wisbech.

At the site on Home Farm, Hooks Drove, he wants to build a new agricultural building and extend an existing one for the venture.

The plans also include a security fence, entrance gates and an earth bund around the fields where the birds will graze.

The application’s design and access statement by Alexandra Patrick, of Alexandra Design, says: “Currently, there is a robust demand for quality ostrich breeding stock because there is a supply shortage of ostriches for processing in relation to the demand for meat products in this country.”

It goes on to explain the farm will “begin raising a healthy product to help meet the ever-growing demand for an eco-friendly protein source”.

The plans were validated by Fenland planners on November 12.

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Farming birds like ducks, chickens, quails and pigeons is already established whereas ostrich farms are still quite unusual.

The statement says there is high demand for the meat in the international market and their feathers are used for home decoration purposes. Ostrich skin is also very valuable.

A shed which already has planning permission will become sleeping accommodation for adult birds and will house specialist facilities for incubating and hatching eggs.

Its steel cladding currently being proposed will be replaced with timber cladding to keep the birds warm all year.

The other building will be used for storage.

Ostriches on farms are kept in small groups, with one male for two or three females.

The design and access statement explains: “They have their own field and shelter surrounded by hedgerows.

“The females lay their eggs in a sand pit in the middle of each field, one egg every other day during the season.”

These are collected every afternoon and placed into incubators until they hatch six weeks later.

“They are then transferred into the ostrich nursery and carefully looked after,” the statement says.

The birds will be inspected twice a day and warning signs will be on display to warn the public.

The ostrich is the biggest bird among all the bird species. It originates from Africa and has an average life span of 40-45 years.

Adults can weigh as much as 150kg, around the same as an adult panda.

Ostriches can become aggressive, and the plans explain the applicant has already applied for a dangerous animal’s license for the farm.

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