A $50 investment by Carthage Technical Center Agriculture Teacher Justin Mauss turned into an experience that will long be remembered by the students in Mauss' class.

A $50 investment by Carthage Technical Center Agriculture Teacher Justin Mauss turned into an experience that will long be remembered by the students in Mauss' class.
“We always have a very big poultry unit in the ag sciences classes, we've hatched out quail, we've hatched out chickens, we've hatched out ducks, we've hatched out turkeys,” Mauss said. “I was scrolling through Facebook one day and saw an ad for emu eggs in Avilla for $25 a piece. I shot the guy a Facebook message and asked are they fertile, how old are they? He said they were two days old and they had every chance to be fertile and I told him I'd be there the next day, just for a neat class project, something different.”
Something different turned into Emerson, a bird that was the size of a small adult chicken when he was born from the egg that was a little larger than a softball.
Emus are native to Australia and are the second largest bird in the world, behind the African ostrich.
The emu is raised in America by farmers for its meat, oil and leather.
Mauss said the birth of Emerson has “has exposed students to a new aspect of agriculture that many programs across Missouri have never taken part in.”
Emerson was born on March 24 and raised in the classroom through the end of the school year.
“He hatched out at exactly 50 days, which is about right. The average gestation length on emus is 52 days,” Mauss said. “t was a Saturday when he hatched. We were actually at an FFA contest that day. We came in that morning at 5:30 a.m. to leave and we saw a beak and movement. We came in when we got back from that FFA contest and there was an emu in the incubator. He looked pretty groggy, he looked like most newborns do, but he perked up.”
As of May 2, the bird had grown to four pounds and was about two feet tall.
He lived in a cage in the front of Mauss' classroom most of the time and the students in his class took turns feeding, watering and caring for their new project.
When he is let out of his cage, Emerson dutifully follows the the students wherever they go without the need for a leash or any kind of harness. If they take him outside, he'll run around and peck at the ground, but he never strays far from the students.
Mauss said when full grown, Emerson could be six feet tall and about 160 pounds.
“That's a little big for the classroom,” Mauss said. “I've got some zoos on the line and we're trying to do some business with. I'd like him to go someplace where he could be used for education in the future. If not, there are some people near Springfield who want an emu more as a pet than anything else. They said they'd take him off my hands.”
Mauss said he didn't know of another FFA program in Missouri that had tried to raise an emu as a project.
“When you have any type of livestock in the classroom, the kids get to learn how to take care of an animal,” he said. “I was gone two weeks ago for the four-state FFA convention and at that point, the kids completely took over the project. They fed him, watered him, cleaned out the cage, all of that and did a very good job on that. With any type of livestock, the kids learn responsibility, they learn work ethic, sometimes they learn some of the harder lessons in life, we had two eggs and only one of them hatched. That's a tough thing to learn anyway.”