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Why farmers should embrace waterfowl farming

Waterfowl farming is one of the lucrative livestock ventures because of its high level of productivity and little start-up capital requirement.
Classification of waterfowl may seem difficult because there are many different types of ducks, geese and swans in the same family which are all closely related.
One of the advantages of keeping ducks is the fact they could be kept within the same vicinity with a crop farm because they don’t destroy vegetables or flowers and they live longer and lay eggs for a longer period of time than chickens. Generally, ducks digest fibre and protein better than chickens.
According to a report by BBC, Japanese farmers were using a specially bred specie of ducks for the management of pests on rice fields. The ducks fed on insects, weeds, and weed seeds leaving the rice unharmed thus allowing for effective management of pests and weeds without use of chemical pesticides.
The method was also used in South Korea, Thailand, China and Iran.
Mr Abubakar Aminu, an animal scientist and practicing animal farmer for eight years shares his experience on farming of waterfowls; geese, ‘answer answer’ (or ‘kwa kwa’ as it is commonly called) and local ducks.
According to the animal scientist, Chinese breed and New Zealand breed are the commonly found species of geese in Nigeria, while commonly found local duck specie was of Muscovy descent.
Mr Aminu explained that in order to get the best fertility ratio for one willing to start waterfowl farming; geese should be kept at a male to female ratio of 1:2 or 1:3, while for ‘kwa kwa’ and local duck, he noted that the males are highly fertile as such could be kept at 1:5 or 1:6 male to female ratio.
One of the basic things he said you need to put in place to ensure higher fertility of the birds is to ensure you have a pond, either naturally dug, artificial trampolines or plastic where the birds can swim.
“For the geese, I cut water tanks and used it as a pond for them but you must ensure that you change the water every day if you want to have high fertility. While swimming they mate, so when they see clean water they come and swim and mate.
“Or you can make a small concrete pond of 1m by 1m. It would be enough for them if it’s a backyard system but if you have enough land you can do up to 5m by 5m or 6m by 6m depending on your capital,” he said.
Speaking about shelter, Abubakar noted that it was a prerequisite to provide shelter for the birds, stating further that if you are considering intensive system of management then the shelter should be like that of layer or broiler chicken.
He however opined that orchard trees like guava and lemon could be planted to provide shelter for waterfowls under which they do better than when kept in cages etc. because they are highly moisture tolerant.
On their hatching ability, the seasoned waterfowl farmer said that geese and ‘kwa kwa’ were not good brooders, so for intensive production to be feasible, there was need for provision of an incubator which will hatch their eggs.
However the local ducks, he stated, were very good brooders and have about 85%-95% hatching ability.
Mr Aminu confirmed that each of the geese he raised on his farm was able to lay 60 eggs compared to six to 10 averagely obtained from geese raised by other waterfowl keepers.
He noted that all the eggs laid were confirmed to be fertile by the hatchery manager that he took the eggs for hatching, which means there would be hatching rate of up to 90%.
One trick he said farmers use was to exchange the eggs of a broody local hen with that of geese or ‘kwa kwa’ for hatching but noted that this has limitation because geese eggs were large as such only two to three eggs could be put at a time.
In terms of nutrition, the waterfowl farmer advises that at least 50% starter, grower or layer mash should be given as supplement for higher productivity.
He stated that waterfowls feed on vegetables like lettuce, fresh succulent grasses, kitchen waste and other roughages, noting that roughages like rice bran, wheat offal need not to be fed to the birds if they were being given concentrate feed.
“We just feed them twice a day; early morning and late evening because we have green grasses around that they feed on so we supplement with layer mash. The time I used layer mash was when I got 60 eggs per goose,
“You feed them the starter/chick mash from day-old to about two to three weeks of age, then you start feeding them with grower mash subsequently for another two to three weeks then you continue feeding them layer mash when they start laying. They are fast growers,” he said.
He explained that for the local duck, the breeding season is from April to July depending on the availability of rainfall and management practices employed by the farmer.
Like the ‘answer answer’, geese have the ability to lay eggs all year round but under intensive management and excellent nutrition, but they commonly lay eggs during the harmattan period.
Another trick the poultry farmer pointed out, was to remove some eggs from the broody goose nest leaving at least one behind in the nest to encourage more egg laying.
A pair of adult goose and gander sells for between N14,000 and N17,000, while both male and female adult ‘answer answer’ costs N700 to N1,000. Similarly, local duck sells for N2,000 to N3,000 for drake (male) and N1,500 to N2,000 for duck/hen.
One limitation he noted was glut in the market as most people don’t have interest in consuming waterfowls’ meat unlike the market for broiler and layer chickens.

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