Ducks in a Row: Raising Ducks on Guam for Production and Pest Control

Final report for FW17-050

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2017: $19,206.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Megan Paloma
Region: Western
State: Guam
Principal Investigator:
Maegan Paloma
Maegan Paloma
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Project Information

Abstract:
Summary:
Food security is integral to human survival. Guam’s economy relies heavily on importation, so its food security is at risk. In fact, just last year Guam did not have imports of produce and animal products for 3 weeks due to dock strikes in California. Guam’s ports also shut down due to typhoons, which are common for Guam as it is located in the infamous typhoon alley. Poultry eggs are a relatively low cost protein source and there are only a very few very small backyard chicken producer currently on island. No one to our knowledge is producing duck
eggs at all.
 
To address this problem, it would be beneficial to teach farmers sustainable methods that they can employ to keep Guam’s food security out of risk by decreasing dependence on imports of produce and animal products while proving that it is also a profitable venture. In this proposal, I will be raising ducks for egg production as well as a pest control agent for snails and slugs because they are of the most common pests found on farms, including my own. I chose ducks because there currently is no one that is raising ducks commercially, the introduction of ducks to my farm will increase biological diversity of my farm and increase livestock diversity and resilience on the island as ducks are a hardier production animal. Hardiness is especially important to consider with Guam’s tropical climate. With duck eggs, I will also be able to produce two new, high return value added items to Guam’s market- salted duck eggs and balut. Balut are duck eggs incubated 18 days, removed from the incubator and boiled. This is a delicacy among southeast Asia. Currently, Guam imports these high value items from the Philippines. At the supermarket, salted eggs cost $5.29 and balut costs $7.59 for packs of 4 eggs. In this project, I will also be adding a new concept to balut production by reducing the incubation time to see if there would be a better demand for this new product. I will hold an annual farm workshop to share my experience with the community.
 
In this proposal, I will be raising Khaki Campbell and White Layer hybrid ducks that I will have to import from a hatchery. The ducks will be kept within a fenced area along the perimeter of the property. The ducks will also have feeds to supplement their foraging. A survey of the property for snails and slugs will be performed weekly. A few ducks will be separated from the flock for the purpose of obtaining fertile eggs for balut production. Duck manure will be collected to be composted in the garden. Eggs will be collected daily and tallied. Eggs will be sold at the local farmer’s market. To expand my market’s reach, I will also be using Facebook. This project will take place over the course of 2 years.
Project Objectives:
Objectives:
My research questions and outreach objectives include:
1. Determine if ducks are a viable alternative pest control of snails and slugs (as both are serious pests of vegetable crops) on Guam.
2. Demonstrate the benefits of raising ducks for egg production and value added duck egg products.
3. Identify the marketability of new duck products introduced to the market.
4. Through demonstration and workshops, generate interest in farmers to start their own duck flocks.
5. Determine if raising ducks on Guam is a viable venture for commercial production.
6. Identify problems and solutions that arise from raising ducks on the tropical island of Guam and put these findings into a University of Guam Cooperative Extension brochure with the help of my technical advisor, Dr. Diambra Odi.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Hauhouot Diambra Odi - Technical Advisor (Educator)

Research

Materials and methods:

As there were no available production breed ducks on island, importation from a hatchery was necessary. There are few hatcheries that carry waterfowl and fewer still will ship to Guam. Once a hatchery is found, it is crucial to communicate with them in order to obtain the documents needed to apply for an import permit. Guam Department of Agriculture also has paperwork and set requirements (ducklings must come from a healthy flock and must be vaccinated prior to entry, shipping containers must be mosquito proof, ducklings must still undergo quarantine so their living quarters must be mosquito proof during the duration of the quarantine; if quarantine parameters are not met, the importer must seek an approved quarantine facility before entry may be granted). There is a fee for an import permit as well as a processing fee for customs should the ducklings be shipped through air freight (it is the quickest mode of transportation and ensures that the ducklings do not get stuck in distribution centers and die during transit). Additional fees may come from the hatchery (health certificate, vaccines, and freight costs) and customs (if the flight arrives after 1700 and depends on the rank of the officer for off-duty work).

Once an import permit is issued, the importer must prepare for the arrival of the ducklings. It is crucial that the brooder lamps be run prior to the arrival to maintain a temperature of 90F/32C. Water must be given once the ducklings have arrived. To increase survival rates, vitamins may be added to the water. It is important to give the water in sips. For the next few days, add pebbles to the waterers so the ducklings will not drink too much or drown. Carefully monitor the ducklings for the first 3 days. It is normal to have a few losses during this time. Reduce the temperature of the brooder 5-10 degrees per week until they are no longer needed. Heat from the lamps may not be needed during the day unless it is cold. 18-20% protein feed should be given for the next 3 weeks. Once the ducklings have shed their down and are feathered out (approximately one month in age), they may be allowed outdoors and will no longer need a brooder. By this age, they should be eating feed that is 14% protein.

Once ducks have reached production age, layer feed and sources of calcium are necessary to have in their diets to encourage healthy production of eggs. 

Data to be collected: Pest population survey, duck production yield, crop production yield.

Research results and discussion:

About the ducks

Our farm has White Layer and Khaki Campbell ducks that were imported from California as there is no other farmer that is pursuing duck production on Guam. We started off with 60 (50 females, 10 males) of each breed.

To make up for the shortfall for the ideal male to female ratio, we set to hatch a clutch of each breed and sold off some of our extra males. Our current numbers for each breed are:

  • Khaki Campbell: 43 females, 7 males
  • White Layer: 95 females, 15 males

In terms of production, our Khaki Campbell ducks do better in production; however, our White Layer ducks produce larger eggs that customers prefer when purchasing balut so when choosing which breed to prioritize hatching, we chose the White Layer. In addition, the ducks we hatched do better in production in comparison to their imported parents. 

In comparison to raising poultry, we consider it more profitable to raise ducks over chickens; although, it is more tedious to raise ducks.

Flock maintenance

Our ducks gradually increased in commercial feed consumption from 1 (50 lb) sack of feed a week from when they first arrived on island as day old ducklings to 2 (50 lb) sacks of commercial feed as adult ducks completing their first year on island per day. The ducks were also given layer feed and calcium was introduced to their diet as well to increase shell integrity thus increasing egg shelf life and decreasing the risk rate of ducks becoming fatally egg bound.

In addition to commercial feed, fresh food wastes are source from nearby public schools and the ducks can forage for snails and slugs on the farm.

When allowing foraging, having a secure fence between the crops and the ducks is essential as the ducks will also indiscriminately eat the crops as well.

Production

Our ducks began to lay in April, 7 months after arriving on Guam.

Production dips to about 30% on rainy days and 10% when the ducks are molting.

In the beginning, when the ducks were in full production we were only collecting approximately 2 dozen eggs a day. After a year, we were collecting 3-4 dozen a day. Now, we are collecting 6 dozen eggs a day.

Our duck molting period lasted for approximately a month and a half (late October-November) of 2018.

We saw a shortfall in production during molting period for our original flock July-October but still had production (although very few in number) from our younger, hatched flock.

From the duck eggs, we produce the following products:

  • Balut (aborted duck fetus)
  • Penoy (incubated eggs that turned out to be infertile or terminated in development)
  • Salted eggs
  • Fresh eggs (when our flock fertility was still low)

Of our products, as expected, balut was the most popular from the beginning. Initially, we were terminating the incubated eggs at 14 days but had higher demand for eggs terminated at 18 days. In order to meet all customer preferences, we now terminate between 14 to 21 days and giving customers the option of “small”, “medium”, and “large” embryos. Of the three options, our highest in demand is “medium” balut, terminated at 18 days.

Balut is also available as an import from the Philippines; however, our customers have said that they prefer “fresh” balut from our farm instead of what is commercially available and are willing to spend more on our products because the lackluster quality of the imported eggs.

Next in popularity was salted eggs, fresh eggs, and finally penoy eggs. After a learning curve and a bit of “growing up” for our flock, we eventually phased out of offering fresh eggs and didn’t produce as many penoy eggs. We do still cater special orders of fresh eggs to customers who have been with us from the beginning. 

In the beginning, when establishing our market for salted eggs, we had difficulty selling our products. Initially, we soaked our eggs in salted water for 14 days, but our product did not “take off” until we consulted with a friend that produced salted eggs as a family venture in the Philippines. By their tutelage, we salted our eggs for 18-21 days and saw growth in our customer base.

Currently, our major line of production is with balut as it is both the highest in demand and costs the most (at $2 per egg vs $1.50 per salted egg and $1 per fresh or penoy egg). We had our GQF Sportsman 1502 modified to fit more eggs and converted an old miniature refrigerator into a second incubator and, as of December, have converted a wine chiller into a third incubator. We started incubating 180 eggs to now 727 eggs.

 Although we are making a bit more money from this venture than before the modification and our customer base has grown in the time of the project, the cost of commercial feed in addition to the months with low production has set us back.

In the beginning, we were only making $100 per week to $250 now. Still, with the consideration of the cost of feed is roughly $30 per sack and labor, we are only “breaking even”.

In addition, our crop yields have also been low due to the immense amount of effort put into raising ducks and an active tropical cyclone season. Many other local farmers have experienced similar crop yields as many of them had not recovered from Typhoon Mangkhut when Super Typhoon Yutu devastated the Marianas. With the limited number of workers we can afford, we have switched entirely to focusing on raising ducks for production. 

Manure

Initially, we had an issue with manure output. The ducks were producing more manure than we anticipated. The smell became a problem for our neighbors and the ducks were not thrilled with plodding through the mud either.

We first started using shredded paper as ground cover that we sourced from the local community college. It worked temporarily.

We moved on to grass clippings and leaves that we sourced from a nearby housing community. It helped with the smell and the ducks were happier. We still need to process the manure to be able to use it an alternative to commercial fertilizers.

We added plastic pallets to their housing area so that they would have a place to be off the ground. It also helped keep the eggs cleaner as they were not tracking as much mud into their nesting boxes. It was better as a “long term” option to combat manure output but not a permanent solution. 

Due to limited labor force and the full-time need for duck husbandry, we were not able to get to processing the manure to be able to utilize on the farm or to be sold to other farmers that may have interest in it.

About the ducks

Our farm has White Layer and Khaki Campbell ducks that were imported from California as there is no other farmer that is pursuing duck production on Guam. We started off with 60 (50 females, 10 males) of each breed.

To make up for the shortfall for the ideal male to female ratio, we set to hatch a clutch of each breed and sold off some of our extra males. Our current numbers for each breed are:

  • Khaki Campbell 43 females, 7 males
  • White Layer 95 females, 15 males

In terms of production, our Khaki Campbell ducks do better in production; however, our White Layer ducks produce larger eggs that customers prefer when purchasing balut so when choosing which breed to prioritize hatching, we chose the White Layer. In addition, the ducks we hatched do better in production in comparison to their imported parents. 

In comparison to raising poultry, we consider it more profitable to raise ducks over chickens; although, it is more tedious to raise ducks.

Flock maintenance

Our ducks gradually increased in commercial feed consumption from 1 (50 lb) sack of feed a week from when they first arrived on island as day old ducklings to 2 (50 lb) sacks of commercial feed as adult ducks completing their first year on island per day. The ducks were also given layer feed and calcium was introduced to their diet as well to increase shell integrity thus increasing egg shelf life and decreasing the risk rate of ducks becoming fatally egg bound.

In addition to commercial feed, fresh food wastes are source from nearby public schools and the ducks can forage for snails and slugs on the farm.

When allowing foraging, having a secure fence between the crops and the ducks is essential as the ducks will also indiscriminately eat the crops as well.

Production

Our ducks began to lay in April, 7 months after arriving on Guam.

Production dips to about 30% on rainy days and 10% when the ducks are molting.

In the beginning, when the ducks were in full production we were only collecting approximately 2 dozen eggs a day. After a year, we were collecting 3-4 dozen a day. Now, we are collecting 6 dozen eggs a day.

Our duck molting period lasted for approximately a month and a half (late October-November) of 2018.

We saw a shortfall in production during molting period for our original flock July-October but still had production (although very few in number) from our younger, hatched flock.

From the duck eggs, we produce the following products:

  • Balut (aborted duck fetus)
  • Penoy (incubated eggs that turned out to be infertile or terminated in development)
  • Salted eggs
  • Fresh eggs (when our flock fertility was still low)

Of our products, as expected, balut was the most popular from the beginning. Initially, we were terminating the incubated eggs at 14 days but had higher demand for eggs terminated at 18 days. In order to meet all customer preferences, we now terminate between 14 to 21 days and giving customers the option of “small”, “medium”, and “large” embryos. Of the three options, our highest in demand is “medium” balut, terminated at 18 days.

Balut is also available as an import from the Philippines; however, our customers have said that they prefer “fresh” balut from our farm instead of what is commercially available and are willing to spend more on our products because the lackluster quality of the imported eggs.

Next in popularity was salted eggs, fresh eggs, and finally penoy eggs. After a learning curve and a bit of “growing up” for our flock, we eventually phased out of offering fresh eggs and didn’t produce as many penoy eggs. We do still cater special orders of fresh eggs to customers who have been with us from the beginning. 

In the beginning, when establishing our market for salted eggs, we had difficulty selling our products. Initially, we soaked our eggs in salted water for 14 days, but our product did not “take off” until we consulted with a friend that produced salted eggs as a family venture in the Philippines. By their tutelage, we salted our eggs for 18-21 days and saw growth in our customer base.

Currently, our major line of production is with balut as it is both the highest in demand and costs the most (at $2 per egg vs $1.50 per salted egg and $1 per fresh or penoy egg). We had our GQF Sportsman 1502 modified to fit more eggs and converted an old miniature refrigerator into a second incubator and, as of December, have converted a wine chiller into a third incubator. We started incubating 180 eggs to now 727 eggs.

 Although we are making a bit more money from this venture than before the modification and our customer base has grown in the time of the project, the cost of commercial feed in addition to the months with low production has set us back.

In the beginning, we were only making $100 per week to $250 now. Still, with the consideration of the cost of feed is roughly $30 per sack and labor, we are only “breaking even”.

In addition, our crop yields have also been low due to the immense amount of effort put into raising ducks and an active tropical cyclone season. Many other local farmers have experienced similar crop yields as many of them had not recovered from Typhoon Mangkhut when Super Typhoon Yutu devastated the Marianas. With the limited number of workers we can afford, we have switched entirely to focusing on raising ducks for production. 

Manure

Initially, we had an issue with manure output. The ducks were producing more manure than we anticipated. The smell became a problem for our neighbors and the ducks were not thrilled with plodding through the mud either.

We first started using shredded paper as ground cover that we sourced from the local community college. It worked temporarily.

We moved on to grass clippings and leaves that we sourced from a nearby housing community. It helped with the smell and the ducks were happier. We still need to process the manure to be able to use it an alternative to commercial fertilizers.

We added plastic pallets to their housing area so that they would have a place to be off the ground. It also helped keep the eggs cleaner as they were not tracking as much mud into their nesting boxes. It was better as a “long term” option to combat manure output but not a permanent solution. 

Due to limited labor force and the full-time need for duck husbandry, we were not able to get to processing the manure to be able to utilize on the farm or to be sold to other farmers that may have interest in it.

Interest

Once we had an established presence as local producers of duck products, we have been met with an influx of interest from farmers and customers alike who would also like to venture into duck production. We currently have a waiting list of 5 farmers and 5 regular customers for fertile eggs, ducklings, and retirement of our original flock.

As the project ends, we are looking forward to having more workshops so that we can “hand down” our experience to them and to others who may be curious enough to consider duck production as a business venture. 

Overall

Ducks are good for pest control, but they are also potentially profitable as a business venture as there is a significantly high demand for duck products on their own; however, many considerations must be made such as space, time, manure output and cost. 

Participation Summary
1 Farmer participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

30 Farmers
1 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

This year, we had two separate farm visits from students at the University of Guam that were taking graduate and undergraduate level courses in agriculture. The students were given a tour of the farm and operations and participated in activities with the ducks. 

University of Guam undergraduate student enthused to have finally met a drake
University of Guam undergraduate students deeply invested in questions about ducks

Learning Outcomes

1 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Ducks are voracious eaters- they will eat pests...and crops

  • Ducks are not less susceptible to illness

  • Manure output from ducks is extremely high

  • Fertility increases with maturity. It took a few months after ducks began laying to see better rates in fertility

  • Calcium is important to egg shell integrity

  • Ducks molt and molt is longer the older they get. They will still produce eggs, but very few

  • Establishing a new market for duck products takes time

Project Outcomes

2 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
5 Farmers intend/plan to change their practice(s)
1 Grant received that built upon this project
2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

In its current state of infancy, the project has proven to provide an environmental benefit of manure production which would help farmers improve the productivity of their soil, especially farmers in the northern areas of the island with limestone origin soil.

In the future, the project will contribute to future sustainability in:

Economics

  • Egg production: There are no other farms producing duck eggs. Currently, duck egg products are imported from the Philippines. A local producer could be preferred over importation.
  • Manure production: Manure can be sold or exchanged between farmers.

Environment

  • Manure production : Manure has the potential increase farm crop productivity and improve soil quality.

Social benefits

  • New business opportunity: As there are no other farms producing duck eggs, this project has the potential to become a new business opportunity for farmers should it prove to be profitable or become an adoptable model to increase farm productivity.
  • Employment opportunities: Integrated livestock and crop farms require assistance in care and management.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.