Duck Farming in India: A Potential Source of Livelihood for Poultry Farmers

Duck farming is a part of poultry farming that involves raising ducks for meat and eggs. Ducks are considered more productive than chickens as they can lay about 300 eggs per year, which are larger and richer than chicken eggs. Ducks are also hardy, easily brooded, and resistant to common avian diseases. They can thrive well in scavenging conditions, eating fallen grains, snails, earthworms, insects, small fishes and other aquatic materials. Ducks can also survive in marshy areas and in the areas where no agricultural crops can be grown.

Duck farming is becoming an emerging sector in India. It contributes about 7-8% of the total egg production in the country and forms about 10% of the total poultry population. The major states that practice duck farming are West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Assam, Tripura, Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir. Duck farming provides a profitable business idea to poultry farmers around the world. It can also enhance the income generation and livelihood of rural farmers who depend mainly on ducks for their sustenance.

Process and Methods of Duck Farming

Duck farming can be done in different systems depending on the availability of resources, market demand and climatic conditions. The main systems are:

  • Extensive system: This is the traditional system where ducks are reared in free range or semi-scavenging conditions. They are allowed to roam freely in natural water bodies or paddy fields during the day and are confined in simple shelters at night. They are fed with kitchen wastes, agricultural by-products and natural feed resources. This system requires low investment and management but has low productivity and high mortality.
  • Semi-intensive system: This is a modified system where ducks are reared in fenced areas with access to water and feed. They are provided with artificial shelters or coops for protection from predators and weather. They are fed with balanced ration along with natural feed resources. This system requires moderate investment and management but has higher productivity and lower mortality than the extensive system.
  • Intensive system: This is a modern system where ducks are reared in controlled environment with no access to water or natural feed resources. They are housed in cages or deep litter houses with proper ventilation, lighting and temperature. They are fed with high quality commercial feed and water ad libitum. This system requires high investment and management but has the highest productivity and lowest mortality among all systems.

The process of duck farming involves the following steps:

  • Selection of place: The location of the duck farm should be suitable for the chosen system of rearing. It should have adequate space, water availability, drainage facility, accessibility to market and veterinary services.
  • Selection of breed: The choice of duck breed depends on the purpose of production (meat or egg), climatic adaptability, availability and market preference. Some of the popular duck breeds in India are Khaki Campbell, Indian Runner, White Pekin, Muscovy, Desi or local breeds.
  • Housing and management: The housing and management of ducks vary according to the system of rearing. The general principles are to provide adequate floor space (2-3 sq.ft per bird), ventilation, lighting (14-16 hours per day), temperature (12.8°C-23.9°C), humidity (60-70%), bedding (rice husk or straw), water (clean and fresh), feed (balanced and adequate) and sanitation (regular cleaning and disinfection).
  • Breeding and hatching: The breeding and hatching of ducks can be done naturally or artificially depending on the availability of resources and market demand. For natural breeding, one drake (male duck) can mate with 5-10 ducks (female ducks) depending on the breed and season. For artificial breeding, artificial insemination can be done using semen collected from selected drakes. For hatching, natural incubation can be done by broody ducks or artificial incubation can be done by using incubators.
  • Feeding and nutrition: The feeding and nutrition of ducks depend on their age, stage of production and system of rearing. The general guidelines are to provide starter feed (20-22% crude protein) for 0-8 weeks, grower feed (16-18% crude protein) for 9-20 weeks, layer feed (15-16% crude protein) for 21 weeks onwards and breeder feed (17-18% crude protein) for breeding ducks. The feed should also contain adequate amounts of energy, minerals, vitamins and water.
  • Health care and disease prevention: The health care and disease prevention of ducks involve proper vaccination, deworming, biosecurity and hygiene measures. The common diseases that affect ducks are duck plague, duck cholera, duck hepatitis, fowl pox, fowl cholera, salmonellosis, aspergillosis, coccidiosis and ectoparasites. The ducks should be vaccinated against duck plague and duck cholera at 6-8 weeks of age and boosted at 16-18 weeks of age. The ducks should also be dewormed at regular intervals and treated for any signs of illness or injury.

Benefits of Duck Farming

Duck farming has several benefits for the farmers, consumers and the environment. Some of the benefits are:

  • Economic benefits: Duck farming can provide a steady source of income and employment for the farmers. Ducks can produce meat and eggs that have high demand and value in the market. Ducks can also utilize agro-industrial wastes and natural feed resources that reduce the cost of production. Ducks can also be integrated with other farming systems such as fish farming, rice farming and vegetable farming that increase the profitability and sustainability.
  • Nutritional benefits: Duck meat and eggs are rich sources of protein, iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin B12 and other nutrients that are essential for human health. Duck meat is considered as red meat due to its higher red muscle fiber content and has a distinct flavor and texture. Duck eggs are larger and richer than chicken eggs and have a longer shelf life.
  • Environmental benefits: Duck farming can contribute to the conservation and improvement of the environment. Ducks can help in controlling the pests and weeds in the paddy fields and water bodies by eating them. Ducks can also help in fertilizing the soil and water by their droppings. Ducks can also help in maintaining the ecological balance by providing food and habitat for other aquatic animals.

Challenges and Opportunities of Duck Farming

Duck farming in India faces some challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed for its further development and growth. Some of the challenges are:

  • Lack of awareness: Many farmers are not aware of the potential and benefits of duck farming. They are also not aware of the improved breeds, technologies and practices of duck farming. They need to be educated and trained on the various aspects of duck farming through extension services, media and demonstration.
  • Lack of infrastructure: Many farmers lack the proper infrastructure such as housing, water supply, feed storage, processing units, marketing facilities and veterinary services for duck farming. They need to be provided with adequate infrastructure support from the government, private sector and NGOs.
  • Lack of research: There is a lack of research on the various aspects of duck farming such as breeding, nutrition, health, management, economics and marketing. There is a need to conduct more research on these aspects to improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of duck farming.

Some of the opportunities are:

  • Growing demand: There is a growing demand for duck meat and eggs in India due to the increasing population, urbanization, income and awareness. There is also a growing demand for duck products in the international market due to their quality and uniqueness. There is a need to tap this potential market by producing more quantity and quality of duck products.
  • Diversification: There is a scope for diversification of duck products such as smoked duck, salted duck eggs, balut (fertilized duck eggs), foie gras (duck liver), duck feathers, etc. There is also a scope for diversification of duck farming systems such as organic duck farming, integrated duck farming, etc. There is a need to explore these opportunities by developing new products and systems.
  • Innovation: There is a scope for innovation in duck farming such as using new breeds, technologies and practices that can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of duck farming. There is also a scope for innovation in marketing such as using online platforms, branding, packaging, etc. that can enhance the value addition and competitiveness of duck products.

Conclusion

Duck farming in India is a promising sector that can provide multiple benefits to the farmers, consumers and the environment. It can also contribute to the national food security, rural development and poverty alleviation. However, it faces some challenges that need to be overcome by creating awareness, providing infrastructure, conducting research, tapping demand, diversifying products.

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