Monday, January 12, 2015

Insuring Poultry Flocks In Case Of Catastrophic Disease

Funding was included in the 2014 Farm Bill to determine the feasibility of insuring poultry producers for a catastrophic disease event.  As you know, USDA has offered crop insurance for many years - but never for poultry.   

Chickens put down with carbon dioxide due to Avian Influenza infection

Part of the required research is gathering input from those that might be involved or interested.  Watts and Associates (W&A) of Billings, Montana was hired to do this research.  W&A is interested in gathering information on the level of concern associated with catastrophic diseases in the poultry industry, risk management techniques related to such diseases, share of risk held by integrators and growers, and impressions about the current programs to assist with the costs associated with depopulation, cleaning, disinfection, and heightened surveillance procedures when there is a catastrophic disease event.

Besides a fire in our hatchery or a duck building, my biggest worry is a major disease -  specifically a "bad" salmonella or avian influenza.  Depopulation is the answer to these situations and with all our birds on one farm, we are very susceptible to this solution.  Therefore I am very interested in this type of insurance and will be attending the meeting in Atlanta as I will be at the International Poultry Expo.

Depopulating a chicken farm with Avian Influenza

As you may know, Avian Influenza has recently been discovered in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Canada.  Many commercial flocks of poultry have been destroyed in Canada.  So far the only birds destroyed in the US are large backyard flocks.  But what if you had a pastured poultry operation, your birds became infected with Avian Influenza from wild ducks and lost all your birds due to the infection or depopulation by the authorities?  Would you want insurance for something like this?  If you are a contracted grower, does your contract cover you should this happen to you?

Pair of wild Mallards.  Are they carrying AI?  Have they visited your birds?
I understand many of you do not have large enough flocks to insure, but if you do, you might want to attend one of these meetings.  Or if you know someone that would be interested, please tell them.  If there is not enough interest shown in insuring poultry at these meetings, it will be difficult for the USDA to pursuit it further.

Meetings are scheduled in the following locations:

January 26    1:30pm     Georgia World Conference Center (preceding the
    Monday                       International Poultry Expo)
                                        Room 410-A
                                        Atlanta, GA

February 3    2:00pm     St. Cloud Holiday Inn and Suites, St. Cloud Room
    Tuesday                      75 37th Avenue South
                                        St. Cloud, MN 

February 10  10:00am   Stanislaus County Harvest Hall,  Room ABC
    Tuesday                        3800 Cornucopia Way
                                         Modesto, CA  95358

February 12  9:00am      Farm and Home Foundation of Lancaster County
    Thursday                      1383 Arcadia Road
                                         Lancaster, PA  

If you cannot attend a meeting and have input for W&A, email Randy Landgren.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Sebastopol Geese Hatching and Raising Their Own Goslings

The following story was written by Susan Valdina and is about her pair of Sebastopol geese that successfully hatched and raised several sets of goslings.

No-Work Hatching in New England
“Shrek and Fiona arrived in the mail all the way from Metzer Farms in California to a small island in Maine. That was May of 2011. This has been my second winter raising goslings and learning how to sit on my hands and not help my adult Sebastopol geese.

This photo was taken after I allowed Fiona and Shrek to get in too much water.  Oh Dear!  Then we warmed them up.  Photo by Louis Segal

This year Fiona hatched her babies almost two weeks earlier than last year (March) and built her
nest in the old shed. Her incubator savvy is perfect. I would see her leave her nest at least twice a day (although it may have been more often and I didn't witness it. She would go to the water and dip her head and then put water on her breast feathers. Proper humidity you know.

Fiona on her nest.

I looked for an opportunity to peek at the nest and get an egg count and finally got it. Looking at the nest is quite amazing. They put goose down and straw or hay and other bits of "yard" to both build their nest and to make a thick blanket over the eggs, which appears to have an R-value of 50. I exaggerate - however, it is amazing how warm it is under that blanket. 

One new gosling peaking out.

She hatched nine out of ten eggs! 

More goslings!!
When her babies hatched in the deep cold, I resisted grabbing the whole family and bringing them in the house with me. I told myself over and over that they would be fine and to resist that urge. It was torture until I saw them all out one cold day walking around on their own!! They were only a day old then and seemed fine. Every few minutes they would all huddle under both Shrek and Fiona, then wander again.
Shrek with the goslings

I feed hay before the grass is up and game bird crumble. Shrek takes on as much of the watching as Fiona. They both warm cold ones and take them for walks. I'm learning too. I set out shallow water dishes for the goslings so they can't get too wet. I wonder how they manage around ponds in the wild?”

Supplying water to the goslings.
Until I received this letter from Susan I was not sure if Sebastopol would hatch their own eggs and make good parents. This answers that question - they can make excellent parents. Look what Fiona and Shrek did in Maine in March!  We have found that Sebastopol are very broody – meaning they want to make nests and sit on eggs. As we collect eggs every day, they will end up sitting on empty nests or nests with clods of dirt or chunks of wood as eggs. The problem with broodiness is they stop laying eggs while they are broody.

Hey!  Who is that?
Some of the unique characteristics of Sebastopol geese is they start laying earlier than all other breeds, peak in egg production earlier than all other breeds and then abruptly drop off in production much earlier than all other breeds of domestic geese (probably because so many go broody). So if you want Sebastopol goslings, it is best to order them to arrive early in the season. Usually our peak Sebastopol gosling production is in late March.

Thank you Susan for this wonderful story.  If you have a story about your ducks or geese and have pictures, send it all to us!  Maybe we can get yours published, too.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Comparing the Nutrients of Duck Eggs and Chicken Eggs

People often ask how duck eggs compare nutritionally to chicken eggs.  Basically, duck eggs are packed with more nutrients than chicken eggs.  The only major nutrient that chicken eggs have more of than duck eggs is ..... water! 

Following is information taken from the USDA analysis of duck eggs and chicken eggs.  Note that these numbers represent the nutrient level in 100 grams of egg.

Of the ten major minerals, duck eggs surpass chicken eggs in nine of those minerals.  Overall, duck eggs average 10% more minerals than chicken eggs.

For the top 13 vitamins, duck eggs have higher levels in ten of them.  If you compare all thirteen vitamins, duck eggs average 40% more vitamins - and that does not even count carotene of which chicken eggs have none.

Duck eggs have a higher overall protein level and surpass chicken eggs in eleven of the eighteen measured amino acids.

Duck eggs also have a higher fat content - which gives them their rich flavor and texture.  It is interesting that duck eggs have 18% more of the saturated ("bad") fats than chicken eggs.  But they also have 39% more of the unsaturated ("good") fats! 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fresh Duck Egg Survey Results

As explained in our prior post, we emailed a survey on fresh duck eggs to 93 of our customers that had purchased ten or more female Khaki Campbell, Golden 300 Hybrid or White Layer ducks.  The response rate was fantastic as we received 89 completed surveys! 

We felt the most important question in the survey was what services and products our customers wanted that would help them produce and sell more fresh duck eggs.  We gave them twelve choices and they ranked them from most important to least important.  More detailed descriptions of these questions was in our prior post.  In the following graph, the longer the bar, the higher average ranking it received.

Services Our Customers Want So They Can Produce and Market More Duck Eggs

Items in the Other category were requests on how to keep the pens drier, how to manage ducks on pasture, provide sample advertising, conduct a survey of pricing, and explain why duck eggs cause fewer allergic reactions than chicken eggs.

As we develop answers or products to meet these needs, we will provide them in this blog.  We are also developing an email list of those interested in the production, marketing and use of fresh duck eggs.  We hope to involve these people in our fresh duck egg program.  We may ask for their favorite duck egg recipes and quotes from chefs or bakers to whom they sell so we can produce a marketing brochure everyone can use.  Or we may ask for comments on a redesigned duck egg carton.  Or we may conduct another survey on pricing so those just starting in the business know what others in the nation are charging for duck eggs.  If you want to be included in this group, please email us at 

The following chart shows where our customers sell their duck eggs.  With duck egg brochures, recipes and marketing ideas, I would suspect more will start selling to bakeries, restaurants and grocery stores.

Where Our Customers Sell Their Duck Eggs 

We were also interested in the flock sizes of those responding to the survey.  As you can see, most of have flocks of from 11 to 100 females.

Flock Size for Survey Respondents

Our last question was their prediction of sales for next year.  The number on the left is the number of respondents for each category.  Over 60% of the respondents predicted sales increases of 10% or more. If you weight the responses according to their flock size, the overall prediction is an increase of 12.3% in sales next year.

Responders were given five choices for next year's sales forecast

Many duck eggs are also sold in Asian stores as balut and salted eggs.  Less than 5% of our respondents sold balut and salted eggs.

As we said earlier, we feel there is a tremendous potential for fresh duck egg sales.  Now that we know what our customers need, we will start working on these services so our customers can meet this market demand.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fresh Duck Egg Survey

We feel there is a tremendous potential for fresh duck egg sales throughout the United States.  Our sales of fresh duck eggs are growing both locally through Farmers Markets and the eggs we ship throughout the country.  In addition, we sell more and more of our egg laying strains of ducklings throughout North America: Golden 300 Hybrid, White Layer and Khaki Campbell.

A Pair of Khaki Campbell ducks

We want to promote these sales but did not know what was most important to our customers.  So we designed a survey.  It was sent to all customers that purchased 10 or more females of one of the breeds listed above within the past two years.

I will describe our questions in this blog and give the results in our next blog. 

The first question was the most important.  It listed twelve services or products we can provide and asked them to rank these in importance to them.

Nutritional Data On Duck Versus Chicken Eggs  This would compare the levels of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, lipids, etc. in chicken and duck eggs.

Duck Layer Management Guide  We would write a management guide describing how to maximize your duck egg production.

Our management guide for raising ducks for meat.

Fresh Duck Egg Brochure  We would design and print a brochure that would be used to promote your eggs - whether you sell at farmers markets, grocery stores, bakeries or restaurants.  It would have pictures, nutritional information and testimonials of chefs and bakers.  These would be provided at our cost.

Recipes Using Duck Eggs  These would be recipes we have collected or have had developed by chefs or cooking schools to use with duck eggs.

Duck Egg Cartons  We would find sources of egg cartons that hold the larger duck eggs.

Jumbo duck eggs in the largest egg carton available.
Medium duck eggs in the same carton.  No cartons are available that hold Large or Jumbo duck eggs.

Improved Genetics So The Ducks Lay More Eggs   We would work with a poultry geneticist to gradually improve egg production.

University Research  We would work with a university to determine how duck eggs are better than chicken eggs for baking and general cooking - facts not just opinions.

Egg Production Forecasting Tool   We would develop an egg production forecasting program for our website that would give you expected weekly egg production if you entered your flock sizes, breeds and starting dates for each flock.  What would your production be if you had a flock starting every six months or smaller flocks every three months?  If you have a peak demand during the summer, when do you start your flocks and how many ducks should be in each flock?

This shows the weekly fresh duck egg and duckling production if you started 1000 White Layer females in production every two months.

Improved Genetics So The Ducks Lay Larger Eggs   We would work with a poultry geneticist to increase the egg size.

Internet Duck Egg Chat Group   This would be set up exclusively for individuals that produce and sell fresh duck eggs.  You would be able to ask questions and share solutions to problems with other fresh duck egg producers.

Duck Egg Washing Machines   We would list sources of duck egg washers and compare their effectiveness and costs.

We also asked where they sold their eggs:
  On the farm
  Farmers Markets
  Delivery Route
  Grocery Stores
  Wholesalers that buy from me and resell
  Asian Stores (fresh eggs)

In addition we asked how many ducks they had laying this year and how much they expected their sales to increase next year.

The final question was if they also sold balut (partially incubated duck eggs) or salted duck eggs.

Please check our next blog for the results.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Post Office Proposing 75% Increase in Postage for Day-Old Poultry !!

The following blog was written when the USPS was considering increasing the postage drastically for live animals in 2013.  They did not act on this proposal.  We have no idea if or when they will reconsider it.

The Post Office is proposing that we start paying an additional $9.00-11.95 for every shipment of day old poultry (which amounts to a 75% increase).  They are accepting comments on this proposal through this Friday, May 24th.  We are asking you to contact the USPS and protest this additional charge.

US Postal Commission

Why do we oppose this postage increase?

1) The average postage we now pay for all our duckling and gosling shipments is about $12.00 per shipment.  If they add this additional charge, your postage charges will go up at least 75%!  How often has the USPS raised rates 75%?

The USPS gives no indication how this new income will improve service in any way.  It will not make shipping faster or easier.  It is not designed to better track shipments.  It is not for better ventilated trucks to carry your birds.  It is only a way to increase their income at your expense.

3) This new regulation will only affect day old poultry shipments and bee shipments.  Was either industry notified in advance or was our input requested?  Absolutely not.  It was only when an AP reporter phoned another hatchery that we learned the USPS was proposing this 75% increase in fees.  As mailing is our only option, hatcheries such as ours work closely with the USPS and we have our own Live Shipment Representative in Washington, DC.  The only response I received when I asked my local representative about it was "Who sent this to you?"  It appears to me the Post Office was trying to hide this proposed regulation until it was too late!

Let us make sure this joy continues!

We are asking you to send a quick email to the USPS to protest this exorbitant and heavy handed increase! 

  • The subject line must read Live Animals
  • It must be received by this Friday, May 24th
A sample email is below that you can copy, paste, edit, personalize it, sign your name and send.  At the very bottom is a link to the actual regulation language.

Thank you very much for your efforts.  If we all do our part, we can prevent this unfair increase from happening.
John Metzer

To Whom It May Concern:

I am very much against the additional postal charges you are proposing for the live animal shipments.

Do you realize this is an average increase of over 75% in what I now pay to receive my day old poultry?

Your proposed regulation does not indicate how this money will be spent.  Will it speed service?  Will it making tracking of my birds easier?  Will it provide a better environment for my birds during shipping?  What does this 75% increase do for me?

I am also very disappointed you did not contact the day old poultry and bee shipping industries prior to or after your posting of the regulation.  Unfortunately it gives the impression that: 1) you don't care about me and 2) you don't care about any input from the hatcheries directly affected by your new rates.

Are you proposing a 75% increase in rates for any of your other customers?  Or is it only us?

I do not feel this 75% increase in my postage rates for receiving day old poultry should be implemented.

Thank you for your time.

Your name

A link to the USPS proposed regulation:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Geese and Children

The following is a guest blog from Cheryl Walter with her recommendations on raising geese with children.  Thank you Cheryl!    
If anyone else would like to contribute a blog, please email John Metzer.

Goslings are super cute, and so satisfying to hold! But before you get a goose, you should do a lot of considering to be sure that the goose you want is the right animal for your family. Unfortunately, every fall unwanted domestic juvenile geese appear at local ponds because the people did not fully consider the needs of the geese or their families before they made the purchase. 

Holding Puffball

We have Super African geese that we bought from Metzer Farms a year and a half ago after a period of consideration. We have a flock of Indian Runner ducks, and we wanted to have an extra layer of protection for the ducks, as well as an animal that would help us to keep the grass down.

We have three children, who were ages 10, 8 and 5 when we got our first geese. Before we bought our geese, we knew full well that these particular geese would be aggressive, particularly to kids who showed that they were scared. We considered existing fencing that allows children and geese to have space. We looked at where we would house our geese. We also got a livestock guard dog to help keep coyotes away from the geese. We considered the noise and our neighbors. (As many of the neighbors have roosters that crow at 3:00 am, this was not a large factor. Had we been in town, or a subdivision, it would have been different.)

When we got the goslings, we handled them as much as possible. They loved hanging out with the kids, even listening to my daughter play her flute. 

They all came over to listen to the flute!

However, as they got bigger, the males became more aggressive to my sons, who had backed away, scared that they would get pecked. Once the geese figured this out, every time the boys came into the goose area, the ganders chased the boys. But this is not true of every kid - we had a 4 year old here a couple weeks ago who was running straight at the flock and showed them who was boss – and the ganders ran away! So it really depends on the child. If they are timid, parents would be wise to wait until the child is older. One of the ganders imprinted on me – he follows me around like a puppy, and eats grass out of my hand. 

All of that changed during mating season. Ganders became very pecky (true to their breed) and even my imprinted gander pecked me in the face. I would not let the kids pick up the ganders any more during the spring and summer. 

Stripey, our adult male, in the fall.
I would recommend anyone who wants a pet goose, to get only females. (Metzer Farms sells sexed geese – take advantage of this!) Our females are not aggressive, even when setting on eggs for the first time, as they let us handle them. In fact, one refused for 3 days to get off the nest to eat so I had to take her off daily after that for food and water. The gals were very nice, even when the babies hatched, letting my kids reach under and pull out the peeping goslings to pet them. The ganders, however, if anything, became even more protective and aggressive after the goslings hatched. This may vary from bird to bird and from breed to breed, so look into the breed you want, and get the ones best suited for your situation.

Sally and her gosling Olive.

My children did show ducks at the fair last year, and this coming year my oldest wants to show a goose. We have agreed that it must be female, as they are more laid back in nature, and from what we saw with other geese at the fair, are less stressed. All the kids in 4-H at our fair are encouraged to take their animals out and let fairgoers pet them, so a sociable animal is a must. My daughter picks up the geese daily, and as we get closer to fair, the goose will come into the house to sit on her lap while she watches TV, which to some extent, simulates the sounds of many people at the fair.

Unfortunately, we have known people who impulse bought their geese. They were at the feed store to get some chickens, and just couldn’t resist those cute, meaty, fluffy goslings that are so satisfying to hold. But they did not consider how the animal would fit into their lives. One family lives in a subdivision, and their Brown Chinese goose raised a racket. They did not realize the amount of elimination that a goose does a day, much more than their tiny dog! The goose ended up being a gander, and while it got along ok with the kids, it was frustrated when mating season came. The gander ended up at a local farm. Another nighbor family bought a brown Chinese. It ended up chasing their then two and four year old children. It ended up moving – to our house, where it doesn’t get along with the Super African geese, but does hang out with and look over the ducks. Each fall when we go to the park near the river, we see “new” domestic geese, which makes our whole family sad as they are always quiet tame. 

Last year's Christmas card photo.... with their Christmas goose!
People who want a goose, or a whole flock of geese as pets, should research the breeds of geese and pick the ones best suited for their needs, the ages of family members and the neighborhood. Geese can be very sociable and nice, but some breeds are more aggressive to strangers or during mating season than others. Despite a few pecks from our geese, the whole family loves them. They have wonderful personalities, are certainly unique, and a lot of fun to have around.