The demand for table pheasants in New South Wales has increased in recent years. There are now a number of restaurants, particularly in Sydney, regularly featuring pheasant dishes on their menus.
Research by NSW Department of Primary Industries has shown that pheasants can be raised commercially in much the same way as commercial broiler chickens. The formation of the NSW Branch of the Pheasant and Waterfowl Society of Australia by a number of commercial and semicommercial pheasant producers has further assisted the development of pheasant production.
The pheasant breeding program at the Department’s former Agricultural Research Station at Seven Hills (Poultry Research Station) commenced in 1975 with a small nucleus flock. After one season’s production, the stock, which was representative of much of the commercially available stock, was thought to be so inbred that the birds were not performing at an economic level.
The following year additional stock was obtained from Victoria and incorporated into a breeding program aimed at improving and evaluating performance. The main aim of the project was to measure the performance of pheasants reared intensively for meat production in Australia, as there was no published work on this subject. Records were kept of egg production, fertility, hatchability, feed consumption and body weight, and information was obtained on techniques of processing and presentation of carcases for consumption.
While the pheasant project was operating, significant gains in all aspects of performance were obtained showing that commercial pheasant organisations adopting sound breeding programs and following good management and husbandry techniques should make greater improvements in performance than was the case with the relatively small Seven Hills flocks. The same principles will also benefit the smaller producer.