The farm and breeding centre in Ratu, 20km from Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Emu malai kebab, emu kofta curry, sweet and sour emu soup, grilled emu with wine sauce — tempting and healthy, the Australian bird may soon be the new chicken on your restaurant menu.
Ranchi University history graduate Shashank Tirkey has teamed up with Haryana-based private entrepreneurial firm Samridhi Group to breed the world’s second largest bird in Jharkhand and give the state’s sagging rural economy the much-needed facelift.
What began as the 24-year-old tribal lad’s personal initiative on a small plot of land in Kanauj village of Ranchi’s Ratu block, 20km from the capital, in September, has now found a steady line of followers.
“Samridhi Group brought for me 10 pairs of emu from its Karnal breeding centre. I gave them about an acre of land in my native village. Our farmers’ family has been growing ever since. We are setting up farms with five villagers — two from Hazaribagh and one each from Ratu, Patratu (Ramgarh) and Petarwar (Bokaro). Each will raise one agrarian unit, comprising five pairs of emus to begin with. Many other farmers are coming forward to set up breeding centres,” Shashank, who likes to call himself emu farming promoter, said.
Incidentally, in April, Samridhi Group had handpicked Ramgarh district’s Chaingarha village for the state’s first emu farm-cum-breeding centre. State animal husbandry joint director Rajnikant Tirkey, who also happens to be Shashank’s uncle, did a recce of Ramgarh to interact with farmers and explore possibilities. However, the project did not go a great distance from the talks table. That is when Tirkey’s nephew came to rescue, offering his own piece of land, a gesture that may go down as an economic game-changer in Jharkhand’s modern history.
According to Samridhi Group executive Ramesh Raj Agarwal, emu farming, though a new concept in India, was fast gaining ground countrywide.
“We have a big farm in Karnal from where we can get thousands of birds for Jharkhand. To set up one farming unit (five pairs of the bird), only 2.5 decimal of land is required. Thus, on an acre of land, a farmer can raise up to 200 pairs of emus,” he explained.
Each interested farmer needs to make an initial investment of Rs 1.75 lakh, in lieu of which Samridhi Group will fence their 2.5 decimal land and bring five pairs of the emu — one pair of adults and four pairs of chicks. It will also supply bird food for a year and provide medical services, as and when necessary.
At 18 months, a young female can start laying eggs, which will again be purchased by Samridhi Group for Rs 1,000 each. An adult emu can lay up to 25 eggs a year. The eggs have medicinal properties and are useful treatment for a host of diseases, from high blood pressure to cardiac problems.
Agarwal said his firm would also set up a hatchery at Kanauj village, where the eggs bought from different farmers across the state will be normally processed to rear a new population of emus. The average life span of the Australian emu is 35 years. The all-weather bird can live under the open sky and in temperatures ranging from 0°C to 55°C. Maintenance is minimal, except for dietary needs.
Besides its high-protein eggs, emu meat is also healthy, being both low-cal and cholesterol-free. An adult bird produces about 60kg of lean meat, which is sold at Rs 600-700 a kg. Agarwal pointed out that the bird’s body oil could treat skin diseases and was also used in making cosmetics. “Its feather, claws and skin can be of use too,” he added.
So far, Samridhi Group has received over 40 applications from interested farmers. The numbers are only expected to swell in days to come.