Believe it or not, ostrich farming may be the next big business in Artsakh.
With a 25 million AMD loan from the Artsakh government and his own money, Ararat Baghryan is currently raising 50 three month old ostriches in the Gishi village in the Martouni District.
After extensively researching the market, Baghryan says that there is great potential in raising the flightless birds that can run up to 97.5 kilometres per hour and lays the largest egg of any living bird.
The ostrich farmer says that only 20% of the international market is currently being supplied
It cost 39 million AMD to buy the birds, transport them to Artsakh and purchase feed. The loan wasn't enough. Friends and relatives kicked in the rest. My partners from Yerevan instructed me about building the farm which guarantees all the needs of the birds," says Baghryan.
The birds were imported from Kenya along with special food for the first couple of months. Later on, Baghryan will give them corn, rye and wheat to eat.
The farmer says that it's even possible to obtain most of the eleven plants and grasses in Artsakh that comprise the special ostrich feed.
Baghryan says that despite some preliminary concerns, the birds took to their new surroundings quite well.
He said the birds can also adapt to the colder climes of Artsakh.
Ostriches can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. In much of their habitat, temperatures vary as much as 40 °C (72 °F) between night and day. Their temperature control mechanism relies on action by the bird, which uses its wings to cover the naked skin of the upper legs and flanks to conserve heat, or leaves these areas bare to release heat.
When threatened, Ostriches run away, but they can cause serious injury and death with kicks from their powerful legs. Their legs can only kick forward
Contrary to popular belief, Ostriches do not bury their heads in sand. This myth likely began with Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79), who wrote that Ostriches "imagine when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed.
The Ostrich is farmed around the world, particularly for its feathers, which are decorative and are also used as feather dusters. Its skin is used for leather products and its meat marketed commercially.
Baghryan says that he hasn't yet decided how he will market the birds but that his endeavor will be profitable.
Ostrich meat, an unknown item in Armenia, tastes similar to lean beef and is low in fat and cholesterol, as well as high in calcium, protein and iron. Uncooked, it is dark red or cherry red, a little darker than beef.
One kilo goes for 15,000 AMD.
"The meat has a distinct flavor and, if produced in quantity, could compete with beef or pork in terms of price," Baghryan says confidently.
His ostrich farm, the only one in Artsakh, just started to operate two weeks ago.
As to the future of ostrich farming in Artsakh, Baghryan said it was too soon to make any predictions.
But he seems intent on giving it his best shot.
"Sure it's difficult and demanding, but the demand in the Armenian market alone would seem to justify the effort," says the only ostrich farmer in Artsakh.
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