Search Metzer Farms

November 30, 2011

Can Medicated Feed Be Used for Waterfowl?

Can medicated feed be given to ducks and geese?  Many people say No.  I will explain why I feel the answer is Yes.

First of all, there are four drugs (medicines) that are approved by the USDA for the use in ducks.  These have been used successfully for years to control a variety of waterfowl diseases.   They are Chlorotetracycline, Neomycin,  Novobiocin and Rofenaid. 

The bigger concern, however, is sacked feed sold at your local feed store.  Some of these sacked feeds (especially starter feeds) have medications in them to control coccidiosis.  Coccidiosis is an internal protozoa parasite that can harm chickens, turkeys, game birds and occasionally waterfowl.  As coccidiosis is a common problem, and most people have chickens, the feed manufacturers will often include medication in starter feed to better control this disease.   But what about waterfowl?  Will it harm them?

Non-medicated Starter Feed by Ace Hi - though I would prefer a starter as a crumble, not a mash

We have contacted all the feed mills that we could find that make sacked poultry feed in the US.  From material they have sent us or from their website, we have learned that these 29 mills make 59 different starter feeds for chickens, waterfowl and game birds.  Of these 59 starter feeds, 19 have a medication in them to control coccidiosis.

Four drugs are used.  Fifteen of the feeds contain Amprolium, 1 has Monensin, 1 has Lasolocid and 1 has BMD (Bacitracin methylene disalicylate).

Medicated Starter Feed with amprolium by Kalmbach Feeds

To investigate this further, I asked for the assistance of Dr. Larry McDougal of the University of Georgia and Dr. Alison Martin of the Livestock Conservancy.  Both of these individuals have done extensive work with coccidiosis.  They found research that had been done here in the United States and abroad on the effect of these four drugs on waterfowl.   As Dr. McDougal said “Not one of these papers described any harmful effects to waterfowl except where the normal dosage was significantly overdosed.” 

Non-medicated Grower feed by Southern States

Many of you have heard of Dave Holderread, of Holderread’s Waterfowl Farm in Oregon.  Dave is an expert on waterfowl and an ultimate waterfowl breeder.  He conducted research on coccidiostats with Oregon State University in 1982 (1).   His paper states “Frequently publications pertaining to waterfowl state that medicated feeds should not be fed to ducklings and goslings.  In some localities, producers and hobbyists who raise a small number of ducklings and goslings can only purchase medicated chick, turkey or game bird starter and grower feeds.  Because of the lack of documented information on this subject and the numerous requests for advice on this matter, anticoccidial drugs zoalene, sulfaquinoxaline and amprolium were mixed in mash feed and fed to ducks up to four weeks of age.”

His conclusion was “From this experiment, it appears that sulfaquinoxaline, zoalene, or amprolium at the manufacturers' use levels for chickens and turkeys did not cause mortality, stunted growth or cripples when fed to Khaki Campbell ducklings to 4 weeks of age."

Therefore, it appears research shows these drugs do not harm waterfowl if used at the rates commonly used with chickens and turkeys.

Medicated Chick Starter using amprolium by Lone Star Mills

Have there been coccidiostats used in the past that were harmful to waterfowl?  Probably and that is why the myth began. But those drugs are no longer allowed or no longer used in the United States.

What if you have the choice of medicated or non-medicated starter feed of equal nutritional value?  My recommendation would be to use the non-medicated feed.  There is no point in feeding medication when it is not needed.

HOWEVER, if the choice is nutritionally correct medicated starter feed (20%+ protein) or non-medicated feed that does not meet the nutritional needs of the ducklings and goslings, I would definitely recommend the nutritionally correct, medicated starter feed.  Research shows the medication will not harm the waterfowl.

(1) Holderread, D., Nakaue, H.S., Arscott, G.H. 1983 Poultry Science 62:1125-1127

November 25, 2011

Can You Move Laying Ducks During Egg Production?

If you move ducks that are laying eggs into a different pen, will it adversely affect their egg production?  If you had asked me this question three weeks ago, I would have said "Absolutely! Yes, egg production will drop dramatically!".  Well, I would have been wrong.

In late fall we have to clean a lot of our buildings in preparation for next year's duck breeders.  Normally we move all the breeders from a building to our sell pen and start cleaning out one years worth of manure and bedding.  Our Khaki Campbells were still laying fairly well in a building that was scheduled to be cleaned.  My breeder manager, Guillermo, decided to move them into an empty pen in another building so we could get another two to three weeks worth of eggs from them before that building had to be cleaned, too. 

If he had asked me prior to the move, I would have said "It won't work, but go ahead and try if you want.  They will stop laying within a couple days of their move."  I encourage employees to try new things but I knew how this was going to work out.

The ducks were walked into a trailer and driven to their new pen, about 80 yards away.  The construction of the buildings is exactly the same, though their new pen was a mirror copy of their first pen (for the new pen the water was on the west side and nest boxes on the east side instead of east and west in the older pen).  In addition, they have new neighbors on both sides of their new pen.  Now, look at the egg production of that Khaki Campbell flock.
Nov.  15       86
          16       90
          17       97
          18      103
          19       92
          20       99
          21       98  The ducks were moved this day after their eggs were collected.
          22     102
          23     107
          24     100
          25     110

You can see they have not gone down in egg production!  The move was a stress but there were many things in common between the old pen and new pen: same feed, same feeders, same nipple waterers, same bedding, same lights, and same light schedule.  They are a bit more nervous but otherwise have taken well to their new pen.

I still do not recommend moving breeders while they are in production - especially if they are early in production and you are getting more eggs each day - but I have learned you can move older flocks if you have a real reason to do so and the new pen is very similar to the old pen.

See - you can teach an old duck farmer new tricks!

November 04, 2011

Crossroads Poultry Show Report

I attended my first large poultry show this past weekend - the Crossroads Poultry Show in the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.  It was a great experience!  There were over 10,000 poultry from 40+ states and Canada.  Each bird is judged using the Breed Standard for that particular breed - feather coloring, structural correctness, style and balance.

This is how many birds were entered:
  1747   Ducks
    395   Geese
      68   Guineas
      42   Turkeys
  8024   Chickens
10,276  Total Poultry - with about 20% being Junior exhibitors

Half of the Champions Pavilion with Large Dewlap Toulouse in the front.  In the back is the sales area where exhibitors can bring birds they are not showing and sell them during the show.

The Marsh Blue Ribbon Pavilion. The cages were double high in the far half of the building because of the number of birds - as each bird gets its own cage.

Along with their volunteers, these are the people that dreamed up and brought this show to fruition - twice!  Bill Wulff, daughter Jennifer Wulff-Frank, granddaughter Samantha and son David.  I tried throughout the show to get the whole family together for a picture.  I finally had to go with these four as Bill's wife, Joyce, was taking someone to the airport!  Always working!  This show took a tremendous amount of planning, organization and management and all net proceeds go for youth awards and scholarships.  10,000+ poultry and their caretakers owe the Wulff's a big Thank You.  A show edition will be printed up in the January issue of the Wulff's Poultry Press.

We had a booth at the show and handed out literature and answered waterfowl questions.  We also brought our Waterfowl Sexing video and played that throughout the show.  There always seemed to be someone watching it!  It was very rewarding meeting many of our customers at the show.

P. Allen Smith and Kathy Hopkins
Kathy, of Silver Spring Farm, won Best of Breed with her Buff goose, which she purchased as a gosling from Metzer Farms.  Kathy loves her Buff geese and wants to share their special attributes with everyone.  With Kathy is P. Allen Smith,  who has become well known nationwide with his GardenHome television spots, is also a poultry advocate.  He was at the show to present an award for the best display of a heritage breed from his Heritage Poultry Conservancy.

The Super Grand Champion Bird was Danny Padgett's Male Black Muscovy.  This was judged to be the best bird over all the chickens, geese, turkeys and guineas.  It is rare for a waterfowl to be judged the best bird in the show.  Congratulations to Danny!

For those of you not familiar with the judging process, if a bird wins in its class (young female Pekin duck for example), it then competes against all other Pekin winners (male and female) to determine the Best of Breed.  The Best of Breed then competes against all other Breeds in its Class (Heavy Duck).  The Best of Class then competes against all other ducks for Champion Duck.  The Champion Duck then competes against the Champion Goose for Champion Waterfowl.  The Champion Waterfowl then competes against the best chicken, turkey and guineas for Super Grand Champion Bird.

If you have an interest in showing birds, check with your local county fair and see what they have to offer.  Talk to the person in charge of poultry as they usually know of all shows in your area.  We also post an extensive list of poultry shows on our website.  We have another blog that gives instructions on how to prepare and handle your birds for a poultry show.  Time to start a new hobby!