There are estimates that emu have been roaming the Australian countryside for forty thousand years. Aboriginals have been? and continue to hunt emu ?to supplement their high-energy demand diet, for traditional healing practices and spiritual folklore. It has only been since the early 1980s that farming emu was permitted by the Australian Government. Consequently, the emu’s evolutionary characteristics are pretty much in tact and little time has passed for producers to influence their generational biology. So, farming emu requires a different skill set where the farmer accommodates rather than dictates.
Gentle By Nature
Emu are gentle animals by nature and given a chance will usually run away from?a fight. They evolved into running machines that can maintain speeds of 30 mph for 30 minutes as they learned to run on their toes. This skill has resulted in very few natural predators. They travel in large groups when not breeding and this mob mentality works in their favour to discourage predation. When frightened, however, an emu has a dangerous double footed kick that farmers have learned to respect. Well maintained 6-foot fencing around large exercise pens satisfies their natural fence walking habits.
Lean, omega-rich meat
In the wild emus are nomadic as they forage for seasonal food such? as seeds, grasses,? leaves, fruit and insects. Recyclers by nature they frequently retrace their steps as their short 6-hour metabolism allows them to harvest a second helping. In addition to grazing, our emu farm provides a specific feed formula comprised of barley, lentils, soybean and alfalfa. Unlike other animals, emu’s feed consumption reduces to half during breeding season as these birds have evolved to store a large fat pack used as an energy source during egg production and incubation. Emus have also developed a body structure that will accommodate wide variations in climate. They can tolerate high temperatures and also cold winters with snow.? They have an unusual feather construction of two feathers out of one quill. This allows them to raise their feathers for cooling or for warming insulation. They usually prefer to live outside year-round in our Cowichan Valley weather, but will seek shelter from windy conditions. Minimal housing construction is required for the farmer, only to keep their feed dry. The adaptive characteristics of the Australian emu has produced lean, omega-rich red meat and health promoting fat and oil without the benefits of modern science. Not necessary, from our point of view, to mess with a good thing.
Lois Hellemond works with her husband John at Mt. Sicker Family Farm