Dr. Jacquie Jacob Ph.D., University of Kentucky
Compared to chickens, very little research has been done on the nutritional requirement of ducks. The nutrient requirements of growing meat-type ducks are reported to be similar to growing chickens. However, when formulating duck diets it is not possible to use amino acid availability and metabolizable energy content determined with chickens. As with chickens, supplementing duck diets with feed enzymes improves nutrient utilization. Also, ducks are better able to digest fiber than chickens so the metabolizable energy values of feedstuffs are typically 5-6% greater than the values obtained using chickens. It is best to give the feed as pellets or crumbles. Pelleting is most economical. Pellets can make a savings of 15-20% in the feed required to raise a duck to market weight, primarily due to reduced feed wastage.
Ducks are one of the fastest growing and most efficient producers of animal protein. The commercial duck meat industry are typically growing White Pekin, White Muscovy or White Mule ducks. Mule ducks are a cross between muscovy and pekin ducks and their offsprings are sterile). White Pekins typically reach a market weight of 7-8 pounds (3.2 - 3.6 kg) in about 8 weeks. Muscovies are marketed at 10-17 weeks of age. Mule ducks are typically marketed at the same time as muscovies.
Ducks tend to produce fatty carcasses. When formulating diets for meat diets it is important to pay attention to the protein to energy balance. The higher protein diets relative to energy generally result in less carcass fat.
Typical growth curves for Pekin, Muscovy and Mule ducks, most commonly used meat ducks, are shown below. As shown in the graphs, the growth curves for the three type of males are very similar. The differences are more pronounced in the females.
Typical feed efficiencies for Pekin, Muscovy and Mule ducks are shown below. Feed efficiencies are calculated as weight of feed consumed divided by body weight gain for the same period. As such, the lower the number the better the feed conversion can be achieved.
Although the growth curves are similar for all three types of ducks, there are considerable differences in feed conversion. The more efficient mule ducks are commonly raised for duck meat production in Europe.
Young ducklings can have access to pasture around 3-4 weeks of age. Ducks are not as good foragers as geese but the use of range will save on some of the feed required. The use of pasture is not required and it can be economical to raise ducks without pasture access.
Muscovy and mule ducks
Based on 2012 research (Baéza et al., 2012), the recommended protein levels for starting (0-3 weeks), growing (4-7 weeks) and finishing (8-10 weeks) diets for mule ducks are 23.5, 15.4, and 13.8% crude protein, respectively. The diets contained 2895 kcal ME/kg (1315 kcal ME/lb). Similar diets can be fed to Muscovy ducks.
Research conducted at Purdue University has resulted in recommended the following nutrient levels for commercially-raised white pekin ducks gorwn to 42 days of age.
Nutrient requirements of Pekin ducks:
STARTER (0-2 wks)
|GROWER-FINISHER (2-6 wks)|
|23% CP||20.5% CP||17.5% CP||15.0% CP|
|Methionine + cysteine, %||0.95||0.85||0.75||0.60|
|Available phosphorus, %||0.60||0.55||0.45||0.30|
Based on results from various research reports (Leeson and Summers, 2005)
Baéza, E., M.D. Bernadet and M. Lessire. 2012. Protein requirements for growth, feed efficiency, and meat production in growing mule ducks. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 21(1):21-32
Leeson, S. and J.D. Summers. 2005. Commercial poultry nutrition, third edition. University Books, Guelph, Ontario.