By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Although chicken is commonly used in cuisines all around the world because of the versatility of its meat, another bird that’s worth giving attention to is the duck, or itik in Filipino.
Not only does it have tender and flavorful meat, its eggs can also be used to make local favorites like balut and salted egg. Moreover, ducks are easy to care for and have various benefits to farmers.
One of these benefits include the ability of ducks to be integrated in rice farming known as the rice-duck farming model, which is what James P. Longcob, the owner of JPL Farms in Purok 4, Abaga, Lala, Lanao del Norte, practices.
He has various poultry like turkeys and geese, a small fish pond, and vegetables on the farm. But out of all these, he finds the rice-duck farming technology to be the most profitable and practical.
“In an integrated rice-duck farming system, I save a lot from what used to be for rice inputs. I don’t have to spray chemicals like pesticides or herbicides, and I don’t even have to add fertilizer,” Longcob said in a webinar broadcasted by the Agricultural Training Institute in Northern Mindanao on their Facebook page.
Because of this, Longcob manages to harvest naturally-grown rice and contributes to the preservation of the environment.
This is due to the presence of the ducks in the rice fields. They serve as natural de-weeders due to their tendency to munch on the wild grass, keep pests away, and fertilize the rice with their droppings.
Different kinds of ducks
According to Longcob, there are different kinds of ducks to choose from. Some of these include the Campbell duck, the Muscovy duck, and a local breed known as Itik Pinas. Each of them have different characteristics that make them good for duck farming.
For example, the Campbell duck, or Khaki Campbell duck, is known for its egg laying and active foraging ability. This breed is distinguished by its khaki-color and modestly long features.
In the meantime, Muscovy ducks are good for meat production. These are easily recognized by the red, fleshy bumps located around their beaks and eyes. Because these are originally wild birds, Muscovy ducks are also good in terms of hunting and foraging.
Last but not the least is the Itik Pinas which is a breed of the Philippine native mallard layer duck developed by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) and the National Swine and Poultry Research and Development Center (NSPRDC) of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI). This breed has an improved egg laying ability and can adapt to local environments.
The owner of JPL Farms shares that he cares for the Itik Pinas breed which was given to him by the Agricultural Training Institute when they conducted a seminar on rice-duck farming on his farm. He then raised the ducks until he had a large number of them.
Basic duck management for the first week and securing the perimeter
“When venturing into rice-duck farming, there has to be a group of ducklings ready when the rice gets planted. But they are not to be released into the field for one week for the purpose of acclimatizing,” Longcob said.
In doing so, this would give the ducklings a higher resistance against illnesses once they’ve been released to the field. 170 to 200 ducks can be released per hectare.
Longcob added that with the ducks growing alongside the rice, these would provide a bigger income for the farmer because not only will the rice be able to grow free from pests like snails and weeds, but the ducks can also be sold either for meat or its eggs.
As for the rice field, the area should be netted prior to the release of the ducklings. This is to keep the ducks from getting out while also keeping predators or larger animals from getting inside.
Securing the perimeter can be done using a net that measures 90 meters by 100 meters.
“This is to ensure the safety of the ducks so they don’t wander far or get in harm’s way,” Longcob said.
He added that this also mitigates any losses in terms of duck population while also being practical because the net can be used for the next cropping season.
Part 2 of the article will discuss the proper housing and feeding requirements for ducks.