UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Effects of pre-slaughter handling, transportation, and nutrient supplementation on ostrich welfare and product quality Bejaei, Masoumeh


Ostriches (Struthio camelus) are the largest living birds with only two toes on each of two long feet that support a heavy body mass. This special anatomical feature creates problems for transporting ostriches. However, little research has been done to examine ostrich welfare during handling and transportation and how this relates to product quality. The main goal of this dissertation research was to find ways of improving ostrich welfare during pre-slaughter handling and transport, which would also contribute to increased product quality and decreased product losses. To achieve this goal, three related research projects were conducted. For the first research project, a producer survey was conducted in Canada and USA. From the survey results, I identified current ostrich pre-slaughter handling and transport norms (e.g., long transportation), and also potential welfare issues in the current ostrich pre-slaughter transport practices. Based on the identified potential welfare issues from the survey, an experiment (with 24 birds) was conducted to study effects of pre-transport handling on stress responses of ostriches. The results showed that the pre-transport handling process is stressful for ostriches and should be minimized. During this research, an immobile sitting behaviour was identified as a behavioural stress response which could be used to identify the fearful birds during handling to minimize losses. For the third research project, three transport trials (with 45 birds) were conducted to investigate the effects of pre-transport nutrient supplementation and transport duration on ostrich welfare. Results indicated that birds transported for a longer time had more weight losses, and male birds which did not receive the nutrient supplement lost more weight. Therefore, the present shipping condition of long distance transportation is detrimental to ostrich welfare with significant losses incurred by producers. Specific ratite transport guidelines have not been developed in Canada or USA. Therefore, transport welfare guidelines from other countries were reviewed to find applicable guidelines to remedy the identified welfare issues, and research studies were carried out to find solutions for remaining issues. The information gathered will be provided to policy-making bodies to develop Codes of Practice for ostrich transportation in Canada and USA.

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