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Magazines : Breakaway Autumn 2011
MICHAEL Hastings likens his Winchelsea ostrich farm to Jurassic Park - and that’s understandable because the ostrich dates back to pre-historic times. The majestic birds – the male of the species standing up to 360cm – have claws on their wings and two-pronged feet, similar to dinosaurs. Michael started farming ostriches on his 320ha property in 1989 and now he has a breeding stock of 500 birds that produce 10,000 to 15,000 eggs annually. And now you can see them up close by heading to his Hastings Ostrich Farm for tours on Sundays until May or by appointment. Egg safaris are a feature of the tours, but harvesting the 1.5kg eggs on a daily basis is fraught with danger. “Egg collecting can be quite challenging, and I make sure the quad bike is always full of petrol,’’ Michael said. “If a bird attacks, you can either fly, run or lie flat on the ground, but if you have a bald head you could be in trouble because the hen could sit on your head for 42 days.’’ Trying to outrun the ostriches would be no easy task because they are the fastest animals on two legs and can reach speeds of up to 75km/h. With the farm having the capacity to incubate 3000 eggs, Michael said the newly-born chicks have an in-built sack of egg yolk, which means they do not require food or water for the first four or five days and are exported during that time. Ostrich meat is highly prized because it is high in iron and low in cholesterol. “The cuts are similar to red meat, with prime fillet steaks, rump or tenderloin but it is not gamey and has a very mild taste,’’ Michael said. He also exports newly hatched chicks and eggs overseas, as well as ostrich meat to Canada, the United States and Japan. His products are so well known in Japan that his state-of-the-art operation was the focus of a documentary late last year. Michael has set up a shop that sells products made from ostrich hide, which he calls “the Rolls Royce’’ of leather. The shop is called The Vault and is on the main street in Winchelsea. A visit to it and a tour of the farm are a highlight of any visit to the town. INFO: Tours of Hastings Ostrich Farm cost adults $12.50. Phone 5267 2001 or go to ostrichaustralia.com.au INSIDER’S TIP: There’s more to Winchelsea than big birds. Don’t just zoom through on the highway, stop and take a look around. You’ll find lovely walks along the river from below the bridge and a great mix of shops that are overflowing with antiques and collectables and stuff you can’t find anywhere else. Ogling at ostriches MICHAEL STEVENS sticks his neck out at Winchelsea’s ostrich farm day TRIP Check out these products made from ostrich hide at The Vault. Photo: Glenn Ferguson GEELONG ADVERTISER I 25
Breakaway Summer 2010
Our Place - Geelong Region Magazine 2011