Ducks provide power to ‘livestock revolution’

The "livestock revolution" will bring brighter prospects for the poor. And the growing duck industry is partly responsible.

In the Philippines, for more than two decades since the 80s, livestock and poultry contributions to agriculture and per capita utilization have been steadily increasing. The duck industry, for one, has been a great contributor. In fact, volume of production of duck meat and eggs in 2001 was up again by 3.94 percent and 0.84 percent, respectively, from 2000 figures. Their values of production also went up as the year unfolded.

And over the next two decades until 2020, demand for food animal origin will double in developing countries. This, according to development analyst, is a livestock revolution that holds promise for relieving widespread micronutrient and protein malnutrition while intensifying smallhold agriculture.

From 1991 to 2000, for instance, duck meat supply increased from 6,519 to 10,710 t. Duck eggs on the other hand, grew from 33,456 to 53,631 t during the same period.

As duck raising is a lucrative business in the Philippines, it has therefore been an important source of income to the farmers, especially those living near bodies of water. Ducks are usually raised for their eggs, which are made into "balut" (embryonated 16 to 18-day-old eggs) or salted eggs. A 1,000-head layer duck production module has demonstrated to generate a return-on-investment (ROI) of 20 percent and 47 percent for the first and second year, respectively.

Duck meat is also a priced commodity, as it can be marketed as "kinulob na itik", a delicacy that has generated hordes of followers and customers.

Besides bringing in the needed nutrition and cash to resource poor farmers and enterprising businessmen, the "powerful duck" also rid rice fields of the eggs of golden apple snail, a pest that is responsible for great losses in the rice sector.

Ducks also feed on the snail itself, which serve as intermediate host for larval stages of the parasite causing fasciolosis to buffaloes, cattle, and goats. By allowing four to five-month-old ducks to graze on rice 35-40 days after planting, at a stocking rate of 800-1,000 ducks per hectare, farmers not only eliminate the snail but also minimize weed formation. As ducks trample and feed on them, savings on weeding are realized while taking advantage of rice leftovers after harvest. And with their fecal droppings all over the field, soil fertility is improved.

In some Asian countries and in some swine farms in the country, ducks are also used to aerate stagnant water in lagoons and canals where waste materials flow. By allowing the ducks to wade in them, the stagnant water is disturbed, allowing oxygen to penetrate and dissolve.

Considering that the country has the needed breeds to make a profitable enterprise, the duck industry therefore has enough elbowroom to make the livestock revolution work for the poor. The Philippine Mallard duck or "itik" and the Muscovy duck or "bibe" are popular breeds raised for egg and meat, respectively. The country earlier produced the Laguna duck, another meat-type duck produced from a three-way cross among the Pekin drake, the Philippine Mallard and the Muscovy drake, a similar breed to the Taiwan mule duck. It has an average feed efficiency of 3.20 and offers better quality meat.

Furthermore, the duck industry has a competitive advantage over other poultry industries. Ducks require little attention and thrive well on almost all kinds of environmental conditions. They are also highly resistant against common avian diseases. Unlike chicken, they have a longer life span.

It is easy to see that indeed the duck is a powerful and versatile animal, potent enough to be relied upon to sustain its role in the livestock revolution. Marites M. Ramil, S&T Media Service

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