March/April 2001 issue
Backachers Emu Ranch
Backachers Emu Ranch
We’re off to Olympia Washington to visit JAMES and MYRA GLICK at their
BACKACHERS EMU RANCH
Jim and Myra claim the IRS will love them this year (good this is their
love everybody year LOL). The
large reader board in front of their house advertises EMU meat oil and other
products. This brings many call backs, from people wanting larger sizes of EMU
oil and other products. With the industry changing, so do their plans. They have
revised the five-year plans, three times in three years.
They are working on a web site, but like many self-employed entrepreneurs,
it’s hard to find the time to get it done and then stay on top of it. But they
hope to have it up and running soon.
They regularly attend the American Emu Associations conventions and look
forward to meeting more of the industry people so they can talk to eyeball to
Jim and Myra started in the emu business in March 1992 with two unrelated
three-month-old chicks. They held off buying incubators and hatchers, because
they were told the birds “don’t lay for about 36 months”. So they felt
there was plenty of time to save for the other items they needed. Well, one hen
began laying at16 months and laid 27 eggs. They hastily purchased a GQF
incubator, and started hatching at 13 months in business. Of course they did not
know if the eggs were fertile or not. After anxiously awaiting for two months,
it was decided the first two eggs were infertile. Opening them up proved they
were right. Ten days later they heard a whistling sound coming from the eggs.
You can imagine the excitement that ran through their household.
The next 25 chicks hatched without a hitch. Now nurseries had to be built,
plus rearing pens and pens for chicks they swapped for non-related ones.
“At one time we were up to fourteen breeder pairs (four cost $6500 each)
which provided 150 chicks,” relates Jim, “As the breeder market declined, a
decision had to be made, whether to downsize or get out of the business.”
But they had fallen in love with the birds. After a lot of prayer a decision was made to downsize and stay with it until social security age. “Our prayers were that if the business was not paying for itself by that time we would move on to something else.”
It was decided that six breeder pair should provide them with enough
chicks to supply them with enough meat and oil to bring an extra $40,000 per
year. If they could do that amount of business each year it could be profitable.
With a month left in 2000, it looked like it would come close to that amount
(before taxes, of course). The
first six years was spent selling only from the ranch. The last two years they
have been selling five days a week at farmers markets. In Olympia, the local
market runs from April until the last Sunday before Christmas. It runs Thursday
through Sunday until the first weekend in November and then goes to Saturday and
The Glicks sell everything they can related to EMU except meat, due to
local health department requirements. It was decided not to go the extra expense
to meet those requirements. Also a close friend sells Ostrich meat and they felt
the traffic did not warrant both selling meat.
They do take special orders at the market to bring the next day. Doing the
same for fresh eggs.
They work two markets in the Tacoma area. While both markets are on
Saturday, Jim works one market one weekend and the other the following weekend
while Myra works the Olympia market. Next years plan is to eliminate one of the
Tacoma markets, as it is too hard for customers to remember which place they are
on which day.
When they began, their goal was to speak to ten different people and take
in $100 each day. Both goals have far been exceeded each and every day.
The Glicks currently have six breeding pair and have slated thirty chicks
for processing in June or July of 2001. Two birds began laying in November, so
they are already blowing out eggs for the new years markets.
As fast as EMU meat is consumed, it’s hoped the current supply will
last until the yearlings are processed.
Last year each hen produced an average of 38 eggs.
Of those eggs, ten were set under five males for them to hatch. This
saves a lot on electric and gas bills. The year before the males had a higher
hatch rate than all the modern equipment did.
The Glicks give tours on a daily basis by appointment, although there are
those times that folk’s just drop in to see the birds. Most of the groups are
pre-school and primary school children, but; they also have senior citizen
groups come through to see these magnificent Australian creatures. Sometimes you
wonder what the birds think when they look at folks in wheel chairs. The seniors
are certainly amazed to see how friendly and docile these birds are. When one of
the breeders lays their head on the shoulder of one of the seniors in a wheel
chair, it makes it all worthwhile, and casts away any doubt the Glicks may have
had if this is really the business for them.
As far as the future in the EMU business they see nothing but good things
coming. Jim states “With the inclusion of Ratites in the agriculture
appropriations Bill that established mandatory inspections of Ratites during
processing, this should reduce some of the expenses for USDA certified meat. The
American EMU Association is doing great things for their members. Research is
ongoing with the oil and more information is constantly being published about
it.” With the popularity of the oil and the uses that have been
found for it, he feels the value of the EMU has once again increased. He says,
“We may never again see the four to five thousand dollars bird again, but I do
foresee the chick prices once again reaching the four figure range. It may be a
few years coming but I feel it will happen.”
They are both members of the AEA, as well as the Washington State EMU
association, with Jim serving as secretary. Jim and Myra look at different ways
to assist member ranchers here in their state and other regions. One of the
things they have done is contracted with a mill in Tacoma to provide a balanced
formula feed at a much reduced cost. They continue to get the word out to as
many people as they can to promote the EMU; it’s products and the value of the
bird. They sincerely hope what they are doing will benefit other ranchers. Since
their business has progressed to what it has, it looks like they will be in it a
long time. As Jim says “GOD willing and the creek don’t rise”.
Hope you enjoyed our trip to the Glicks Backachers Ranch. I am sure all of
us would like to stop by and have that chick lay her head on our shoulders and
visit you both Thanks Jim and Myra for the tour!