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OSTRICH FARM CONTINUES TO GROW
By Marshall McClung
What began as a "two bird" operation three years ago in the Atoah Community of Graham County has expanded. The C&S Ratite Farm operated by John and Marcella McRae and daughters Carrie and Sarah now consists of fourteen ostriches. The name comes from the initials of the daughters first names and "ratite" for flightless birds.
Marcella made the trip with her husband to San Antonio, Texas for their first two birds, "Bill" and "Hillary". Adult ostriches can weigh as much as four hundred pounds, so they were hauled in a horse trailer.
Marcella is extremely proud of her latest addition, "Little Bit", as this hatch has been pretty much her undertaking. Marcella teaches school in the Graham County School System and helps operate the ostrich farm on the side.
"Little Bit" weighed four pounds and stood a foot tall four days after hatching from a 42 day incubation period. Although adult ostriches are relatively cold tolerant, young ones are not, so ·'Little Bit" will be spending some time indoors in a plastic swimming pool (minus water) until warm weather arrives to stay. Ostrich eggs are about the size of a large grapefruit and weigh around four or five pounds. Ostrich eggs sell for $400 to $500 apiece, and adult ostriches cost between $3,000 and $5,000.
Marcella says eight of their fourteen birds will be ready for market later this year. Markets in North Carolina include Morganton and North Wilkesboro with newer markets being added as- the industry grows.
Ostriches are raised for their meat, oil, skin, and feathers. Marcella says the meat is red and lean with very little fat. She compares it to a fine cut of filet mignon. Ostrich meat is very high in iron, probably second only to beef. The oil is used in cosmetics, and the skin for making boots and pocketbooks. The feathers are used for dusters for finishes in the automobile industry, and for dusting- computer parts.
Adult ostriches have very long legs and stand about eight feet high. They can run in excess of fifty miles per- hour. Ostriches are not very aggressive unless they have eggs or young. However, they will peck you out of curiosity and seem attracted to bright, shiny objects such as women's jewelry, in particular dangling earrings.
Marcella feeds the ostriches a pellet type food similar to what other domestic fowls such as chickens eat. They will eat about two pounds of the pellet food daily and drink four gallons of water.
The better grade of ostriches have "papers ' and are registered much like prime cattle and horses.
Marcella says at present she is unsure whether "Little Bit" is a boy or girl as it would take DNA testing to tell the sex of a baby ostrich until they are several weeks old.
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These pages are from the people of Graham County, North Carolina.
For additional information on Graham County Adventures
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This page is maintained by Tom Livingston, Robbinsville, North Carolina