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Duck rearing – A promising enterprise in the changed global scenario

 A. JALALUDEEN
Centre for Advanced Studies in Poultry Science ,College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences
Mannuthy

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Ducks are being reared worldwide and almost 75% of them are found in Asia. The domestication of wild ducks first occurred in China, probably as early as 4000 BC and it possesses the highest duck population. Even though domestication of wild ducks occurred prior to chicken, it is still in the undeveloped state compared to chicken production not only in India but also in other countries. Duck egg and meat are an important source of nutrients in human diet and they are gaining momentum as food items in modern life. In Europe and USA, ducks are reared for meat, whereas in Asian countries they are primarily meant for egg production. There are several positive aspects on duck production in the present context and few of them are listed below.

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  • Rapid growth rate – Ducks produce heavier table birds more quickly than chicken. Modern hybrid ducks achieve 3kg live weight at 50 days compared to 2 kg for a broiler chicken of the same age. Even 20 –25% of unselected stock of the indigenous Kuttanad ducks of Kerala attained more than 2.2kg at 8 weeks of age.
  • Duck meat is uniformly dark and more strongly flavored than either chicken or turkey.
  • In general, duck eggs are larger and heavier than chicken eggs. However, breed difference exists.
  • Duck eggs have slightly higher nutritive value than chicken eggs (Table 1).
  • Ducks can also reared for their feathers and in particular the downs. Each bird may yield around 100g of unprocessed dry feathers and downs accounts up to 20% of this. It can be used as high quality, high efficiency, insulation in outdoor and bed covers such as eiderdowns, duvets and quilts.
  • Ducks have high reproductive rate similar to chicken.
  • Ducks, in general, are hardier species of poultry. They are resistant to a wide range of diseases.
  • Rearing ducklings is comparatively easier. Brooding temperature need to be maintained for limited days (10 – 14 days) only.
  • Although ducks come under the category of water fowls, water for swimming is not essential.
  • They are suited for wide range of housing systems. They can be efficiently maintained on foraging system.
  • In the integrated farming system i.e. rice-duck system, ducklings are extensively used for biological control of pests and snails.
  • Table 1. Nutritive value of chicken and ducks eggs.

    Chicken

    Duck

    Protein (%)

    12.9

    13.5

    Lipid (%)

    10.9

    14.5

    Ash (%)

    0.9

    1.0

    Dry matter (%)

    26.4

    30.3

    Mean egg weight (g)

    57.0

    75.0

    Source: Smith, A.J. 1990

    In spite of the credible advantages of ducks, duck farming has not gained momentum. The misconception that water is an integral component in duck farming have deterred many people from this enterprise. Farmers who came forward adopt only semi intensive system on a limited scale. Coupled with proper care and management, ducks can be raised both semi intensively (indoors with access to out side) or intensively (total confinement) like chicken and other species of poultry.

    There are certain negative aspects also with respect to duck farming.

    • Ducks consume more feed than chicken – hence inferior feed efficiency.
    • Wetter droppings – a managemental problem.
    • Ducks are more susceptible to mycotoxins than chicken.
    • Higher fat carcass of ducks makes it less attractive to some consumers. But it is preferred by certain groups of people.
    • Ducks are potentially very nervous birds with greater tendency to panic.

    At this juncture, it is worthwhile to have a close look on the investigations taken up by the Centre for Advanced Studies in Poultry Science of the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Kerala Agricultural University, Mannuthy. Documentation of the traditional duck husbandry practices followed by farmers of Kerala revealed the following ITK’s.

    • Mass rearing of ducklings without supplementary heat – The technology is very efficient with livability of 92-95 % for the first month of age. It is a low cost technology independent of electricity or other energy sources. There fore it can be adopted in remote areas.
    • Open range herding system for layer ducks – The technology is very cheap and efficient. The enclosure being circular gives maximum area for a given perimeter. Since the area gets sunlight during day, the herding area dries off and it provides disinfect ion. The net is easily affordable, portable and cheap.

    Corypha palm pith – A lean season feed for ducks. The pith is rich in starch and is a good energy source. It is very palatable since it contains soluble sugars. The material is cheap and available locally.

    • Mass packing of duck eggs – The technology is simple and low cost using cheap wood. The gaps provide aeration, which preserves the quality of eggs with minimal breakage.
    • Medication for ducklings – Madhurakashayam. The medicine is an ayurvedic preparation and it provides disease resistance to ducklings and improves stamina. There are no side effects.
    • Bill branding for identification of ducks – The branding produces a scar which is permanent. Since bills are the upper most part of the body identification is easier.
    • Specially designed trucks for transportation of ducks – It ensures fast movement of ducks from place to place. There is no huddling and death during transportation and is very cheap.
    • Biological control of pests using ducklings – It is eco-friendly, effective and helps to reduce pollution in the rice fields.

    The results of a study conducted to evaluate the Kuttanad ducks of Kerala presented in Table 2 indicate the production potential of this indigenous bird. Two varieties of Kuttanad ducks viz., Chara and Chemballi were reared separately.

    Table.2 Egg production traits of Chara and Chemballi ducks

    Traits

    Chara

    Chemballi

    • Body weight (g)
      • 20 weeks
      • 52 weeks
      • 72 weeks

    1538.15 + 7.06

    1335.14 + 7.44

    1337.60 + 9.72

    1497.51 + 8.38

    1328.81 + 8.42

    1402.50 +12.23

    2. Age at 1 st egg (days)

    129

    129

    3. Cumulative egg no.

    159.21

    163.61

    4. Duck-day production (%)

    39.36 + 1.30

    40.64 + 1.34

    5. Mean egg weight (g)

    69.47 + 0.50

    68.28 + 0.46

    The results of study in which ducks were maintained experimentally in cages without access to water (except drinking water) were found to be encouraging. In another biological trial, indigenous ducks at 20 weeks of age were housed in individual cages having a dimension of 62 X 47 cm. with a height of 44 cm and reared up to 40 weeks of age to assess their performance. The average body weight at 20 and 40 weeks of age were 1466.26 ±25.72 and 1354.23 ±22.71 g, respectively. Body weight at both these ages was statistically comparable. The mean age at first egg and 50 % production were 149.03 and 164 days respectively. The production traits recorded in the study are given in Table 3.

    Table 3. Production performance of Kuttanad ducks from 21 to 40 weeks of age.

     
    Periods / Age in weeks
     

    Overall

    Traits

    I

    21- 24

    II

    25-28

    III

    29-32

    IV

    33-36

    V

    37-40

    Mean egg no./duck

    10.51

    17.15

    15.73

    18.67

    18.58

    80.64

    Mean % production

    37.55

    61.26

    56.17

    66.67

    66.34

    57.60

    Daily feed consumption (g)

    173.1

    ±2.55

    168.3

    ±1.03

    166.3

    ±3.88

    177.3

    ±4.48

    174.6

    ±3.08

    171.9

    ±2.13

    Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR)

    4.61

    ±0.43

    3.44

    ±0.46

    3.57

    ±0.15

    3.19

    ±0.05

    3.18

    ±0.16

    3.6

    ±0.26

    Average egg wt. (g)

    47.8

    ±2.40

    53.9

    ±2.08

    59.3

    ±1.95

    63.1

    ±0.80

    63.0

    ±0.60

    57.4

    ±1.50

    The cumulative egg number per duck up to 40 weeks of age was 80.64 and the corresponding mean percent production was 57.60. These values signal the superior production performance of Kuttanad ducks. The overall mean FCR (per dozen eggs) in this study was 3.60 ±0.26. The frequency distribution (percentage) pertaining to the rate of egg production in desi ducks up to 280 days of age (Table 4) revealed that 15.16 % of the ducks laid at the rate of more than 100 eggs per duck, while 27.27% of the ducks laid between 90-99 eggs during the period from 20-40 weeks of age. This clearly showed the superior production potential of Kuttanad ducks. It was surprising to note that the livability was cent percent.

    The margin of receipts over feed cost by sale of eggs was Rs. 4.80 per duck per period. This indicates that layer ducks can be effectively reared under cage system. In this system high producing individuals may be identified and utilized for selection and improvement of the desi duck flock.

    Table 4. Frequency distribution (%) of egg number per duck up to 280 days of age.


    Class

    Range

    (Egg No./duck)

    Frequency %

    1

    <50

    3.03

    2

    50-59

    9.09

    3

    60-69

    18.18

    4

    70-79

    15.15

    5

    80-89

    12.12

    6

    90-99

    27.27

    7

    >100

    15.16

    These results reveals that duck rearing is advantageous and viable like any other poultry farming. In order to make duck farming more remunerative, research has to be intensified giving due consideration to their anatomical and physiological peculiarities. Duck enterprise has to be remodeled scientifically so that it can continue to be a viable farming system in the changed global scenario. The following strategies are recommended for giving thrust to duck production.

    Future strategies

    • Identification, documentation and evaluation of indigenous ducks available in the country.
    • To establish AICRP on ducks for intensifying research on management, nutrition, breeding, processing technology and bio-security measures.
    • To give emphasis on duck meat production.
    • Intensification of duck-paddy-fish integrated farming systems for increasing productivity.
    • Establishment of a National Center on ducks as the nodal agency for identification of thrust areas in duck research, monitoring and evolving strategies, with state level units.
    Source : IPSACON-2005