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March 13, 2011

Mixing Medicine for Small Flocks of Ducks and Geese

Originally posted by John Metzer on Wed, Mar 09, 2011 @ 04:21 PM

Oftentimes there is confusion on how to mix commercial sized packages of medicine or vitamin supplements for small flocks of ducks and geese. In addition, many injectable medicines are shown for heavy livestock, not smaller poultry. I will show you how to mix medicines for small flocks or individual birds using some simple examples.
Read the instructions Does it give one medication level for chickens and another for turkeys? If so, use the more dilute formula (more water/less medicine) as waterfowl drink more water per pound of body weight than non-waterfowl. Therefore they will get more medicine per bird.

Powder Medicine Open the package and measure how many teaspoons of medicine are in the package (assume for this example there are 12 teaspoons and the package is supposed to be mixed with 256 gallons of water). Divide the number of gallons of water by the number of teaspoons in the package: 256 / 12 = 21.3 gallons of water for every teaspoon of medicine. Knowing there are four ¼ teaspoons in every teaspoon, you can divide the 21.3 by 4 and get 5.3 gallons of water for every ¼ teaspoon of medicine. Knowing this, you can then mix slightly less than ¼ teaspoon of medicine in a five gallon bucket of water for your ducks and geese.
Liquid Medicine How many ounces of medicine are in the container? Assume 8 ounces and it is to be mixed in 128 gallons of water. Divide the number of gallons of water by the number of ounces in the bottle: 128 / 8 = 16 gallons of water for every ounce of medicine. As there are 6 teaspoons in every ounce, divide the 16 by 6 and you get 2.7 gallons of water for every teaspoon of medicine. Knowing what you learned above, you can now divide the 2.7 by 4 and it will show you that you can mix .7 gallons of water with every ¼ teaspoon of medicine.
Injectable Medicine Assume the package says to give 10cc medicine for every 200 pounds of body weight. Dividing 10 by 200 shows that you are to use .05cc for every pound of body weight. If you can, weigh your sick bird. If not, look at the weight ranges on our Duck Breed Comparison Chart and Goose Breed Comparison Chart on our website. Normally a sick bird will be on the lighter side. Assume you have a Khaki Campbell and it weighs four pounds. To determine how much medicine to give it, multiply its weight (4) by how much medicine it is supposed to get per pound (.05 in this example). This gives a dose of .2cc.

Rules for powder medicine:
Divide gallons of water by teaspoons of powder medicine to get how many gallons of water for each teaspoon of medicine.
To convert gallons of water per teaspoon of medicine, to gallons per ¼ teaspoon of medicine, divide gallons by four.
Rules for liquid medicine:                                                 Divide gallons of water by ounces of liquid medicine to get how many gallons of water for each ounce of medicine.
To convert gallons of water per ounce of liquid medicine, to gallons per teaspoon of medicine, divide the gallons by six.
Rules for injectable medicine:                                                For injectable medicine, divide cc's of medicine by pounds of body weight. Multiply this number by the weight of your bird to determine the dosage.
Explanation of Stock Solution  Most larger farms dispense medication via a proportioner. Normally one packet of medicine is mixed in one gallon of water and this is called the “stock solution”. Then the proportioner is set to pump one ounce of the stock solution in one gallon of drinking water. With this method, one packet will treat 128 gallons of water (there are 128 ounces in one gallon). Most of you will not be using a proportioner. I only explain this so you can understand why the label has information about a “stock solution.”
Summary These are just examples. You will have to do the math with your specific medicine. Remember to give the medicine as long as prescribed. If you don't, you are contributing to the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria. You want the bacteria affecting your ducks and geese to be completely killed. If you stop medicating before instructed, there is a chance the more resistant bacteria will live and reproduce. If you medicate the prescribed length of time, there is little chance any bacteria will live – reducing the chances of antibiotic resistant bacteria developing.

Announcing New "Hidden Duck" Contest on Website

Originally posted by John Metzer on Tue, Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:02 PM

We have started a new contest on our website that we hope you enjoy.  We have hidden a black duck somewhere on the website.  Everyone that finds the black duck and registers their find will be entered in a drawing each month for a $40 gift certificate. Following is a copy of our black duck..... but it does not qualify as a "find" - sorry.

Once you find the black duck, just click on it and you will be taken to a registration form.  We ask that you limit your entries to one per month. 

At the end of every month we will randomly choose a winner and move the black duck to a different page on our website.  The winner's first name, initial of last name, city and state will be listed with the other winners

As we have over 100 pages of very useful information on our website, we have many places to hide it!  Time for you to go find the black duck in our Hidden Duck Contest!

Our next blog will show you how to measure out medicine or supplements for a small number of birds when the package of medicine is for 100 gallons of water or more!

Our Pekin Duck Breeding Program

Originally posted by John Metzer on Mon, Feb 21, 2011 @ 09:57 AM 

 All my Pekin breeding stock comes from Grimaud Freres, a French poultry breeding company. I have many customers that grow Pekin ducklings year round - some purchase ducklings weekly, others every other week, and others monthly. To supply these ducklings, I import Pekin breeding stock twice year.

Two sets of eggs are brought in for these Pekin breeders: the male line and female line eggs. Of course males and females hatch from both sets of eggs. But it is the females from the female line and males from the male line that are kept for my breeders. The remaining birds, called off-sex, are sold as commercial ducklings (to be grown for meat). With this type of breeding program, the selection emphasis on the female line is for excellent egg production and high fertility. The male line is bred for larger size, fast growth, and excellent feed conversion. When you cross a male from the male line with a female from the female line, you produce a large number of ducklings that grow quickly with good feed conversion. My Grimaud Hybrid is called the Star 53 by Grimaud Freres.

I was visited recently by Laurent Bomard, Grimaud's Western Hemisphere representative 
(on the left in the picture).

Laurent explained that Grimaud's genetic program is now putting a much stronger emphasis on feed conversion. Feed conversion is expressed as a ratio: the pounds of feed it takes to produce one pound of duck. A feed conversion of 2.00 (or 2.00:1) means it takes two pounds of feed to produce one pound of live duck – a seven pound duck would have eaten 14 pounds of feed. Of course the desire is to reduce this number. With increasing feed costs, the feed efficiency of commercially grown poultry is critical.

Muscovy ducks and individual feeding stations behind them.

Grimaud has developed equipment to measure the feed conversion of each individual duck in a flock. With this information, they can select the better converting ducks for breeding stock. Each duck has a chip implanted in its neck (much the same as is done with horses and dogs for identification purposes). Each feeder can only be used by one duck at a time. When the duck reaches for feed, the scale automatically weighs the feed. When the duck leaves, the scale again weighs the feed and records the difference as feed eaten by that particular duck. The advantage of this system is each duck does not need to be penned separately to record the feed consumption – they can be grown in a flock.

The back side of the feed hoppers.  Notice the Muscovy on the other side of the short wall.

For large operations, feed conversion is critical. Assume you grow 10,000 ducks a week, their feed conversion is 2.4:1, you process them at 7 pounds live weight and feed costs you an average of $340 a ton. With this scenario, you will use 4368 tons of feed, costing $1,485,120 in a year. Now let us assume you grow our Grimaud Hybrid ducks and achieve a feed conversion to 2.3:1. With everything else constant, you have just saved 182 tons, or $61,880 dollars a year. Even if you are only growing 100 ducks a week, you will save $618 a year.
Grimaud started with Muscovy ducks and became the world's leader in Muscovy breeding (France consumes much more Muscovy than Pekin duck meat). They then turned to Pekins, rabbits, pigeons, geese and guineas. Our French Toulouse geese are of Grimaud breeding as are our Pearl Guineas.
The other major, international breeder of Pekin ducks is Cherry Valley of England.  Both companies sell breeding stock internationally.  I visited Cherry Valley in 2008 when I was in Europe visiting hatcheries and researching which new incubators to get for our hatchery.  Both companies are excellent Pekin breeder companies.
Is anyone doing any selection on their ducks or geese for characterisitics other than size or appearance?

Clipping Duck and Goose Wings to Prevent Flight

Originally posted by John Metzer on Fri, Feb 11, 2011 @ 04:20 PM 

Clipping the wings of your birds is really very simple.  Some things to keep in mind:

1)Clip only one wing.  This keeps them off balance when they try to fly.
2)Leave 3-4 of the large flight feathers at the tip of the wing.  By leaving these feathers, the wing looks more normally when it is folded against the body.
3)Use heavy scissors or tin snips.
4)Clip within 1-2 inches of the skin.

Mallard wing before clipping.

Mallard wing after clipping.
Right wing has been clipped on this male mallard duck.
Embden wing before clipping.
Embden wing after clipping.
By leaving a few feathers at the tip of the wing, it appears more normal.
The left wing was clipped on this Embden goose.

Keep in mind that ducks and geese go through several sets of feathers as they mature.  For ducks, wait until they are at least 15 weeks of age and geese 17 weeks of age before you clip the feathers.  At that point they will have their final set of feathers.

Feather clipping needs to be done annually.  Depending on your location, adult waterfowl molt and grow a new set of feathers in the summer or fall.  When you start seeing feathers on the ground from their molting, keep a careful watch.  You don't want them to fully develop their feathers and discover they can again fly before you clip the wings!

The only ducks we have that fly easily are the Mallards.  I have read of all breeds of geese flying except the Super African, Large Dewlap Toulouse and Sebastopol.  Of course the Canada are very capable of flight.

Is Your Feed Company On Our List?

Originally posted by John Metzer on Thu, Feb 10, 2011 @ 10:56 AM 

Can you buy feed that is made specifically for waterfowl?  Probably not.  Most of our customers cannot and they are not sure which chicken, game bird or general poultry feed to use.  We are going to help solve your problem but we first need your help.

We are contacting feed manufacturers throughout the US and Canada and collecting the nutritional breakdown of each different sacked poultry feed they make.  From this information, we will recommend which feed to use, for each feed company, for the different phases in the life of your waterfowl.

However, we want to make sure we have information from as many feed manufacturers as possible.  Below is a list of those companies we have contacted.  These are not feed stores, but rather the names of the companies that make and sack the feed.  If the manufacturer of your feed is not listed, please send us the name of the manufacturer and method to contact them - phone number, website or mailing address.

Once we are satisfied we have most feed companies represented, we will put a page on our website with our recommendations.  But first we need your help to make sure we have all the major sacked poultry feed companies represented.

The feed manufacturers we have, updated March 2015:
  • Ace High
  • ADM
  • Bartlett
  • Belstra
  • Big V Feeds
  • BlueBonnet Feeds
  • Blue Seal
  • Co-op Feeds
  • Diamond
  • Evergreen
  • Farmers Best
  • Flint River
  • Ful-O-Pep
  • Hiland
  • Homestead
  • Intermountain Farmers
  • Kalmbach Feeds
  • Kelley's Feed
  • Kent Feed
  • LA Hearne
  • Lone Star
  • Manna Pro
  • Martindale Feed Mills
  • Mazuri
  • McGreary
  • MFA Inc.
  • Modesto Milling
  • Nutrena
  • OH Kruse
  • Payback
  • Pennfield - Nature's Nutrition
  • Poulin
  • Purina
  • Ranch Way Feeds
  • Scratch & Peck Feeds
  • Southern States
  • Stillwater Milling
  • Union Grove
  • United Suppliers 
  • X-Cel Poultry                                                                                                                                             
Thank you!

A Friend's Great Duck Poem

Originally posted by John Metzer on Fri, Feb 04, 2011 @ 07:19 PM 

Our county has three Farm Days each year.  These enable all third graders in the county to have a field day and learn about agriculture.  Denis Wagner helped me for many years at the Monterey Farm Day.  The other day I received a book he published titled "My Ducks - and other poems".  I typically do not read poetry but I really enjoyed his duck poems.... and wanted to share the first with you.  For those of you with ducks, these words will form pictures in your mind and a smile on your face.

My Ducks
Where are my ducks?
I look out my window to discover
they're out in the road stopping traffic,
waddling in the middle lane,
dipping into the water-filled swale in the asphalt,
mindless normads on a lark,
then the procession moves into the neighbor's yard
eating his chrysanthemums down to nubs.

I go to their pen and bang the feeding bucket
to get them to come home.  Instead
they move on to the water trough near the garden,
swim like partygoers in the Caribbean.
Wading and wiggling their tails,
then web walking like ice skaters over the adjacent grass.
God only knows their methodical evolution.
I look up to see mallards fly along the river, realizing
my white Pekings are malamutes of man's invention
having nothing to do with normalcy.
But they do pacify me into laughing hysterically.

What odd balls,
not much different than some of my acquaintances.
Nothing like myself.

Thanks, Denis.  Do any of you have favorite poems of waterfowl?  For more information on Pekins, you can go to our website.

Time to Prepare Those Duck and Goose Nests!

Originally posted by John Metzer on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 @ 01:30 PM

Now that spring is approaching, it is time to prepare your nests! Whether you have 2 ducks or 1000, you want to make a nest that meets the needs of the female duck or goose. If your nests don't, they will make their own nest somewhere else – and they may choose a spot inconvenient for you or unsafe for them.

The nest should only be large enough for one bird to get in, turn around and sit comfortably on their eggs. You don't want it so large that two birds can sit on one nest. It rarely works for two to share a nest as more eggs will get broken and if you want them to hatch the eggs, eggs may get cold between them, all eggs will probably not hatch at one time and there may be confusion between the two females on which babies are which. A duck nest should be about 12”x14” and a goose nest about 18”x18”.

Our duck nest boxes. A 1"x4" along the top and both fronts.  Use screws, not nails to hold together.
 The next box rolled to show the bottom.
Notice how we have cut slots in the plywood so the nest walls slide into the nest back.  No nails or screws are used to hold these parts together.  It is just the 1x4s along the top and fronts that are screwed.  Use at least 1/2" plywood.

Your birds may be very protected from predators but their instinct still tells them to hide their nest. For this reason you will want sides and a back on the nest. Back it against a wall or fence or put it in a corner. If it is outside, it will definitely need a top for protection from the weather.
To keep the eggs cleaner, we have put burlap and plastic feed bags on the bottom of the nest. This is fine with ducks but geese tend to shred it. If you have concrete or wood floors, make sure you have plenty of bedding in the nest. There is no need for a wooden bottom.

An unbedded goose nest.  It just needs a coat of paint. 
We use a layer of straw followed with shavings.  Notice it is built for two geese, entering from either end.
The parts of our goose nests. The nest is 48" long. Plywood pieces are 36"x48". "Threshhold" is 31" long. To save weight, all is 1x4 lumber except the ridge (2x4) and support lumber (2x2) on center divide.

Kathy Hopkins, who commented below, sent us pictures of some of her goose nests.

Tractor Supply Tuff Tub, 28"x22" x 8" deep.  About $20.  Perfect size for geese.
Kathy's A Frame goose nests.  Notice the tub for the goose.
Here she has nests set up between bales of alfalfa hay.

If you have a sizable flock, you want one nest for every four females. If you want every bird to set, then you need a nest for every female.
Anything soft can be used for the bedding: straw, hay, shavings, sawdust, peat moss, etc. It needs to be clean and dry. Depending on your weather and density of ducks, you will need to add bedding every one to three days if you collect the eggs daily. Start with at least 2” for ducks and 4” for geese. If they make their own nests, make sure they don't have any large sticks in there!
Have the nests built and bedded at least two weeks before you expect the first egg. If you wait for the first egg, it may be too late to convince them to use a new nest when they have already chosen a spot for that first egg.
What can be used for nests? For small quantities, use wooden boxes, tires (not the best as eggs may end up inside the tire), or basins. For larger flocks, you can build nests. The locking design of our duck nests works very well. The handles at the end enable you to periodically pull the nests up and out of the bedding.

When a flock starts laying, leave the initial eggs in the nests for a week so the birds are drawn to those nests and continue laying in the nests. Pick up any eggs not in nests and put them in the nests. Spread out the eggs. The natural tendency is for birds to lay an egg in a nest already with an egg. Inevitably half the nests don't have eggs and the remaining nests have one to five eggs each! Destroy any nests that are made in a high traffic or dirty area (near the water). We have our nests on one side of the building and the waterers on the opposite side so the nests stay as dry as possible.
Do you have any nest suggestions or ideas for easy to make nests?
For more information on incubation (in incubators and with birds) go to the incubation section of our website.

Classic Roman Geese

Originally posted by John Metzer on Sat, Jan 15, 2011 @ 05:07 PM 

I was given an opportunity the other day that I couldn't pass up.
Most people are familiar with Roman Tufted geese, a smaller white goose with a tuft of feathers on their head. But more common in Europe is the Plain Headed Roman goose – without the tuft. These geese are one of the oldest breeds of domestic geese. Their origin is disputed but their claim to fame was the saving of Rome from the Gauls. The story is the squawking of their Roman geese awakened the soldiers to the advancing Gauls and preserved the city of Rome.

Roman geese are some of the smaller domestic geese, with males typically weighing about 12 pounds and females about 10 pounds. Records indicate they were a fairly prolific goose (50-65 eggs per season) but with dwindling numbers and breeding for show qualities only, the breed has lost some of its productivity.
Being smaller, though, they are an active breed that will do well in small pens and in large pastures. I can visualize the beauty of a flock of these smaller, white geese strewn across a green pasture. Being smaller, they will eat less, can tolerate less space and will leave less manure behind. The 1982 Standard describes them as "active, alert, docile rather than defiant."  For a comparison of other goose breeds you can go to our comparison chart on our website.

Patiently waiting in the box.

Dave Holderread imported a small flock of these Plain Headed Roman geese from Canada in 1995. In his effort to simplify his breeding program, he sold his last breeders to Dana McGuire two years ago. Dana realized she could not keep her geese and offered them to me two weeks ago. Arrangements were made and she mailed them to me last Wednesday by Express Mail and they arrived Friday morning in wonderful shape.

As you may know, geese are very curious, intelligent birds. We built the pen for our new geese inside a larger Embden pen and immediately the Embden came over to see who their new neighbors were. Hopefully they were being welcomed to Metzer Farms. However, I was told a fight did break out through a common fence and the Roman made a much larger Embden gander take off in retreat. The Roman was probably a little cranky after its long journey.

What could be a worse name than Plain Headed Roman? Dana also thought it was a poor name and decided to rename them Classic Romans. I think this is a great name, with implications of their classic Roman ancestry. Unless you can come up with a better name, their name is now Classic Roman geese.

We will not be selling any Classic Roman geese this year as we want to expand our small flock (five males and four females) so hopefully we can offer them in 2012. In addition, I will be mating three of the males to some White Chinese geese. I want to test the resulting crossbred birds as a smaller, high quality meat bird.

So let us see how Dimitri, Celestine, Bonnie, Barnabie, Ferdinand, Phoenix, Obidiah, Abigale and Elanor do on our farm. I will keep you posted.

Six Steps to Keep Ducks From Eating Their Eggs

Originally posted by John Metzer on Sat, Jan 08, 2011 @ 10:27 AM 

Some poultry develop a habit of eating freshly laid eggs. We have never seen it in geese but have with ducks. It can be prevented if you follow these steps, with the most important first.

1)  Have an adequate number of well bedded nest boxes. It is highly unlikely a duck will purposely break and eat an egg. Normally they acquire the taste when an egg is accidentally broken and they find they like the taste. So make sure you have enough nests (a minimum of one nest for every four females), your birds are not overcrowded (at least five square feet per bird) and each nest has at least two inches of wood shavings, sawdust, straw or hay in the bottom. It is important there is a 3-4” front on the nest so the bedding stays in the nest. We will discuss nest construction for ducks and geese in a future blog.  We have found the larger, clumsier ducks, such as Pekins, accidentally break and then eat more of their eggs than the lighter breeds.

2)  Pick up any broken eggs quickly and do not toss cracked or broken eggs back to your ducks.

3)  Make sure your ducks are getting a well balanced layer feed that has at least 3% calcium. And remember, by mixing chicken scratch with a balanced layer feed, you are making an unbalanced layer feed. The scratch adds carbohydrates but little protein and few minerals. If you are having an egg eating problem, buy some oyster shell at your local feed store and allow them to eat as much of that as they want. Just put it in a feeder and place it in a dry spot. They may eat more than they need but not enough to harm themselves.

4)  Remove the offending ducks. Watch your birds and see which are doing the breaking and eating. Any incriminating yolk on their bills?
5)  Give the birds other things to play with and eat instead of eggs. Put in chunks of vegetables: cabbage, lettuce, carrots, beets, potatoes, etc.
6)  The last alternative is using fake eggs. Some recommend putting golf balls in the nests. Ducks are not brilliant but I think they are smart enough to quickly learn they cannot eat a golf ball, then ignore it and continue eating eggs.
Besides losing good eggs, there are also health concerns for your birds if they continually eat raw eggs. An essential vitamin is biotin and eggs contain avidin, which binds and prevents the use of biotin. Cooking deactivates the avidin. But if your birds continually eat raw eggs, they may develop a biotin deficiency.

Some people have said to put hot pepper in an egg and the birds will learn to not eat broken eggs due to the pain from the peppers. The problem with this theory, however, is that peppers cause no discomfort to birds! They even put hot pepper in bird seed to prevent squirrels from eating it! In my research I did find there is a compound, methyl anthranilate, that birds detest. It is a naturally occurring compound that is found in concord grape skins and burns the pain receptors in birds just like hot peppers do us. It is used in all sorts of bird repellents but it is not sold in smaller, retail quantities. I wonder? Is there enough methyl anthranilate in grape juice to train ducks to not eat their eggs?

I ran an experiment by putting duck feed in two troughs. In one trough I poured water on the feed at one end of the trough and Welch's grape juice on the feed at the other end. On another feeder, I poured water on half and Grape Kool-Aid on the other. The result? All was equally eaten. If there was any methyl anthranilate in either product, there wasn't enough to bother the ducks! Of course, hungry ducks will eat most anything. It is like putting two kinds of feed in front of a hungry Black Lab (our dog). Everything will be eaten – taste does not enter into the equation!
So until someone can find something with adequate amounts of methyl anthranilate in it to put in “training” eggs, you will need to follow the six steps listed above to prevent your ducks from eating their eggs.

Are My Ducklings' Leg Problems Due to a Niacin Deficiency?

Originally posted by John Metzer on Wed, Dec 29, 2010 @ 03:22 PM 

Niacin is a critical vitamin required for the correct development of ducklings and goslings.  In fact, waterfowl have a higher requirement for niacin (also called nicotinic acid) than chickens.  Niacin is formed from the amino acid tryptophan and waterfowl do not synthesize niacin well from tryptophan.

What do the birds look like if there is a niacin deficiency?   If there is a lack of niacin in their feed, initially some birds are reluctant to move about.    Eventually their hocks swell and their legs develop a bowed shape.  It becomes very difficult for them to move about and they do not gain weight or thrive.  In young birds you will see problems within several days if they do not have adequate niacin.  If they remain on a low niacin diet, death may occur within two to three weeks as it is just too painful for the birds to move to eat and drink.

A series of pictures from the book,  Nutrition and Management of Ducks, with permission of the authors, showing a normal duckling (A) and ducklings (B,C,D) that were fed Niacin deficient diets.

How can this happen?  If you are not using a balanced chick starter designed for broiler chicks or game birds, you may have problems.  If you are using a chick starter developed exclusively for laying chickens, it probably does not have enough niacin.  Do not make their diet exclusively whole grains, like Chicken Scratch.  On very rare occasions, the lack of niacin could be from a mistake at the feed mill.

So how much niacin do waterfowl require?  It should be at least 55 parts per million (ppm).  This is the same as 55mg per kilogram of feed or 55mg per 2.2 pounds of feed.  Oftentimes this is not on the label but if you contact the manufacturer of the feed, they should tell you the minimum guaranteed level in the feed.  You can go to our website for a complete list of waterfowl nutrient requirements.

A bottle of Niacin tablets, 500 mgs per tablet.

How can I supplement niacin?  Niacin can be easily purchased at a nutrition or drug store.  Typically the pills contain 500 mgs of niacin per tablet.  Assuming a duck is eating about .35 lbs per day (this is how much a Pekin is eating at about 3 -4 weeks of age) , they need 10 milligrams (mgs) of niacin a day.  So, theoretically, one pill has enough niacin for 50 ducks.  But if you are grinding up a pill and spreading it over pelleted feed, much of it will sift to the bottom and not be consumed.  Add a little water to the feed and it will “stick” to the pellets.

An alternative is to add it to their drinking water (assuming they have no swimming water).  If they drink 100% of the water you give them, you only need to add one 500 mg tablet to every 8 gallons of water.  But we both know that does not happen.  If you think they are wasting half their water, then add one 500 mg tablet to only four gallons of water.    For your own calculations,  go to the table on our website on daily feed and water consumption of ducklings.

Two broiler chicks, the one on the left was fed a niacin deficient diet.  
Photo courtesy of DSM Nutritional Products.

Are there alternatives to pure Niacin?  If you are concerned with the possibility that other vitamins may be missing, too, you can purchase Vitamin B liquid supplements.  The GNC product I found had 20 mg of niacin per dropper full.  This is enough for two ducks that are 3-4 weeks old.  This might be the best way to administer niacin if your birds are exhibiting leg problems.  By administering the niacin to each bird,  you will know they are getting the required niacin.

A feed ingredient that is rich in niacin is dried brewers yeast.  There is about 5mg niacin per 15 grams (one tablespoon) of human grade brewers yeast.  Livestock grade brewers yeast is not as concentrated.  There is only about 1.5 grams niacin for each tablespoon of livestock grade brewers yeast.

If you are not sure if your problem is due to inadequate niacin, give them some sort of additional niacin as soon as possible.  You will not harm them if you give them too much niacin.  And if they quickly recover, you know you found the problem.

What if only a few of my birds have leg problems?  Variability within a flock is normal.  Each bird varies on how well it forms  niacin from tryptophan, either due to genetics or the different microflora  in their gut.  It would not be unusual to have a single flock of birds, with some exhibiting a niacin deficiency and others walking perfectly normally - but all eating the same feed. 

Glory, a duck that was rescued by Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary,  arrived with leg problems due to a niacin deficient diet.

How long does it take for recovery?  Except for the extreme cases such as the picture above, improvement is normally seen within several days and there can be complete recovery.  But this requires adequate niacin within 24 hours of the first sign of a problem.

The Popularity of Christmas Geese in England

Originally posted by John Metzer on Fri, Dec 24, 2010 @ 02:08 PM

Most people in the US do not eat goose at Christmas. In England, however, fresh goose is a very popular Christmas treat. England has a population of 51 million and there are over forty farmers that commercially raise geese for Christmas sales. For the US to match that ratio, we would need over 240 goose farmers and I would wager there are fewer than 20 in the US that grow geese for the Christmas market!

Most of the geese in the UK are grown on pasture and sold as free range geese. After the first eight weeks, geese can be grown exclusively on green grass. Only at the end are they given all the grain they want. The two largest goose hatcheries in England are Norfolk Geese and Gulliver Poultry, though there are other, smaller hatcheries that supply day-old goslings, too. Though any goose can make a Christmas goose, it is normally the Embden breed that is used due to its large size and white feathers.

The UK has a British Goose Producers Association. This organization provides information to growers, promotional material for better marketing, an annual farm tour of a goose producer and helps coordinate sales among members. Their website has a wealth of information on the tradition of goose at Christmas, a list of members selling Christmas geese, and nutritional information on goose meat and fat. The US has no comparable goose association.

If you have an interest in growing geese for the local market, I encourage you to visit some of the websites of members of the British Goose Producers. See how they grow and market their birds to individuals, butcher shops, restaurants and grocery stores in the UK. It is a market that is just in its infancy in the US.

There are many recipes for goose. The common ingredient in all the recipes, however, is that the skin is pricked to allow the excess fat to drain out. Ducks and geese are genetically predisposed to have more fat under their skin than chickens and turkeys. The reason for this is they spend quite a bit of time in cold water and the advantages of fat are that 1) fat is a great insulator and 2) as it is lighter than meat and bone, it allows the bird to float easier in the water. But during cooking, with some slight pokes of the fork in the breast skin, the excess fat will drain out.  But you want to save that fat!

Goose fat is a real delicacy in many cultures. There is even a UK website exclusively on the history, nutritional benefits and use of goose fat . Goose fat has a high burning (or smoke) point which means foods can be cooked at a high temperature without the fat burning or breaking down. It also has a lower proportion of saturated fatty acids compared to other animal fats such as butter and lard. The biggest selling point however is the unsurpassed taste of foods cooked using goose fat.  It has traditionally been prized in Europe for frying and roasting vegetables.
We have a page on our website that has a list of our customers throughout North America that sell fresh duck eggs locally. We would like to do the same for those of you that sell fresh goose at Christmas. If you do sell fresh duck or goose, please send us your name, city, state, what you sell, and contact information (phone number and/or email) and we will include you on our Christmas Duck and Goose Page. Send a picture, too! If your birds end up in certain stores or restaurants, send their name, too. There is no charge, it is just a service to our customers to spread the word about their ducks and geese!

Now it may be too late for you to rush out and get a Christmas goose in time for the 25th – but there is another holiday in a week that can be your excuse for a delicious goose dinner!

Everyone at Metzer Farms wishes you a heartwarming Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

Salted Duck Eggs - How to Prepare, Where to Sell

Originally posted by John Metzer on Sat, Dec 18, 2010 @ 11:41 AM 

 In the United States, few duck eggs are eaten. In other parts of the world, however, duck eggs are a major portion of the diet. Over 65% of all duck eggs are produced in China and over 90% of all duck eggs are produced in Asia.  Interestingly, waterfowl increased their share of consumed eggs in the world from 6.57% in 1991 to 7.02% in 2007. So the growth of duck eggs is faster than chicken eggs in the world! Take that, chicken farmers!

 Duck eggs are eaten fresh, salted, thousand year old and balut. If you have an interest in any of these products, visit our website for pricing and shipping information. In this blog I will discuss salted duck eggs - future blogs will cover balut and thousand year old duck eggs.

Salted duck eggs are prepared by one of two methods. The original method was to mix salt and clay or charcoal and pack that around a fresh duck egg. The most common method in the United States is to immerse a fresh duck egg in a salt brine. Any plastic or glass container will work but we salt our duck eggs in plastic garbage cans. Fill it ¼ full of water and then add eggs until they are about 4” from the top. As the salt water will make them float out of the water, you need to place some type of plastic panel or screen on top of the eggs and place several bricks on them to ensure all eggs are held down in the water. Then you pour a bag of water softener salt over the eggs and then finish filling your container with water. You must make sure there are always salt crystals in the water. If there are no crystals, add more salt. The eggs must stay in the water for 4-5 weeks depending on the temperature. The salt permeates the egg faster if the water is warm. Once I salted some eggs in a plastic bucket in an operating incubator. It took less than 2 weeks.

It is interesting how the salt changes the proteins in the egg. After salting, but before cooking, the yolk is hard, like a ball of modeling clay, whereas the albumen is very runny. The color of the yolk darkens as the salt permeates it. If the salting process is not complete, the middle of the yolk will be light yellow.  It is complete once the entire yolk has darkened. If the yolk is completely salted, you can squeeze a drop or two of oil out of it. Note that the salt does not add any oil or fats, the chemical properties of the yolk has changed to allow the oils to be separated more easily from the proteins. The yolk also has a different texture after salting. It is slightly more “grainy”. The eggs are always boiled prior to eating.

This is an uncooked, salted duck egg yolk that has been cut in half.  Note that there is very little light yellow in the center of the yolk.

The Filipino culture is to dye the egg a deep maroon color after boiling. Why? Maybe the red color is good luck and it helps them differentiate their salted eggs from balut (partially incubated eggs).

Salted eggs are consumed in a variety of ways. Filipinos typically cut them up and put them on tomatoes or salads. Another popular use of salted duck eggs is for the autumn Moon Cakes where a salted duck egg yolk is inserted in a special pastry.
This may be a way for you to sell some of your duck eggs. Inquire with some of the Asian restaurants or grocery stores in your area. Focus on Thai, Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino and Vietnamese stores/restaurants as these are the top per capita consumers of duck eggs in the world.  The per capita consumption in Thailand is over 63 eggs per year!

Our main distributor puts three uncooked, salted eggs in a clear plastic container for retail sales. If you sell to Filipino food stores, you can probably sell to them in flats as they prefer to cook and dye the eggs prior to sale.

Any sized duck egg can be salted. Our best egg laying ducks, the Golden 300 Hybrid and White Layer, produce an average sized duck egg that would work very well for the salted egg market.
Have I eaten a salted duck egg? Yes - and they are rather tasty. Try one!

Do Ducks Prefer Showers or Baths? Research Results

Originally posted by John Metzer on Thu, Dec 09, 2010 @ 02:56 PM

Research was conducted in England on the best way to provide cleansing water for ducks being grown for meat production.  There is no legal requirement for providing this water but the Council of Europe has recommended that ducks be able to dip their head in water and spread water over their feathers.

The research was done by Dr. Tracey Jones, Dr. Marian Dawkins and Dr. Corri Waitt of Oxford College.  They had two objectives:

1) Did birds prefer one water source over another?
2) Did birds grown only on nipple waterers “miss” water bathing activities?

Birds were provided water by one of the following:
1)baths for swimming (37”x 26”x 10” deep)
2)troughs for head cleaning and splashing (37”x 5”x 3” deep)
3)showers  (4 irrigation sprinklers per pen)
4)nipple waterers
5)nipple waterers for the first 35 days and then troughs
6)baths, troughs, showers and nipples all in the same pen

All the Pekin ducklings were initially grown together and then at 24 days were placed in the research pens.  Each pen was about 10'x12' and contained four ducks.  The baths and troughs were emptied and cleaned once a day.  The sprinklers ran 24 hours per day, high pressure during the day and low pressure at night.  The upper part of the pen was bedded with straw and fresh straw was added daily.  The water was provided at the lower portion of the pen.  Spilled and dumped water drained out of the pen.

Ducks were visually inspected at the end of each week and scored for the condition of their eyes, nostrils, feathers, posture and walking ability.  Body weight was measured at 24, 36 and 53 days of age.  Behavior was recorded once a week for 10-12 hours and broken down into different activities such as bathing, swimming, walking, dabbling, preening, etc.

At six weeks of age, the only ducks that had crusty eyes or nostrils were the nipple ducks.  These same nipple ducks also had the lowest feather scores with only 17% having clean, smooth feathers.  Trough ducks were intermediate with 67%.  The shower and bath ducks scored 95% and the ducks that started with nipples and finished with troughs scored 92%.  All ducks, except the nipple ducks, were well oiled (seen as a yellow tint to the feathers and a waxy coating on the feathers).  There was no effect of treatment on posture, walking ability, body weight or growth rate.

There were few signs of frustration in ducks reared without bathing water.  Interestingly,  when the nipple ducks were offered  bath water, initially they did not spend much time in the bath water.  But by the 7th week, they were spending more time in the bath than birds that were raised with the bath water.  This  suggests that ducks reared only with nipples were behaviorally deprived and were compensating with extra time in the bathing water during week seven.

Only about 5% of the time were the birds  bathing, indicating that they may not need access to bathing water all the time.  The results also showed  that, when given a choice, ducks preferred nipples least as a source of water.  If ducks were given all four sources of water, their first choice was showers as they spent more time resting and dabbling from them.
Very few commercial farms have any type of open water available for growing or breeding ducks.  The main disadvantage of open waters is 1) larger bodies of water, such as ponds, can quickly become contaminated with Campylobacter and other organisms that can harm duck and human health and 2) it is difficult to dispose of this water as it cannot be allowed to run into other bodies or streams of water that run off the farm.  Larger farms would have to make their own sewage plant to handle the runoff water from spillage and daily dumping of the baths or troughs.  But for those growers that want to maximize the welfare of their birds, this research will benefit their planning.

We have the complete research article posted on our website if you would like more detailed information.