Research and development in broiler duck nutrition

Research and development in broiler duck nutrition

The water fowl sector is export oriented with Hungarian specialty products and plays an important role in the Hungarian national economy. Meanwhile the sector has been affected by a number of issues in the past few years. Avian influenza, overproduction, increasing energy and feed prices have forced the stakeholders to focus on further improving production efficacy. Since feed costs account for the majority of production costs, maintaining and improving the profitability of broiler duck production relies on efficient feeding. This means that the amount of feed needed to produce 1 kg live weight (FCR) should be decreased.
To maintain the long term competitiveness of the industry we will need to improve biological efficiency and to develop new feeding strategies that can ensure economic efficiency as well. Determining nutritional requirements more precisely is one of the key elements in developing feeding technologies.

We planned our duck fattening trials based on the presumption that the existing nutritional systems do not allow us to fully exploit the genetic potential of the animals, and that there is no nutritional database available designed specifically for ducks. We also lack data on the nutritional content of feed raw materials for ducks. We consider it important to optimise the nutritional contents such as crude protein, energy or mineral levels to the requirements of the Cherry Valley and Orvia genetics. Based on the above, we believe that species-specific experimental data would contribute to achieving a more accurate nutrient supply in duck flocks. Our experiments were planned in modules based on each other: we evaluated the results before continuing with the next step.

Pecsenyekacsa kutatásThe trials were performed in a barn that can accommodate 3000 ducks, with climate controlled according to the recommended technological values. Here we are capable of setting up 10 treatments with 6 repetitions simultaneously. When designing our trials we first reviewed the feeding recommendations of the Cherry Valley and Orvia breeding companies. We compared the two-phase feeding recommendation of Orvia to the three-phase feeding program of Cherry Valley with regard to the fattening parameters of broiler ducks. Then we evaluated the nutritional values given by the breeding companies to find out if they were justified for the given genetics.

As the first step we investigated the optimal energy, crude protein and digestible lysine levels in broiler duck feeds. Previous experience and the performed trials show that energy levels have to be reviewed. Our trials also showed that crude protein levels can be decreased by optimising the amount and the ratio of synthetic amino acids. This step is important because nitrogen excretion could be reduced if we could determine the protein requirement of water fowl more precisely, which is of huge environmental importance.

Next we investigated calcium and available phosphorus levels recommended by the breeding companies. We examined if levels could be decreased by superdosing phytase enzyme without negatively affecting bone strength and the performance of the animals. Reducing calcium and phosphorus levels not only decreases the cost of the feed significantly, but increasing the efficacy of phosphorous utilisation leads to a decrease in phosphorous excretion, which has a relevance from an environmental point of view. Our trials showed that the calcium and phosphorus levels recommended by the breeding companies are not justified and can be lowered by superdosing phytase. Our trials showed that lower calcium and available phosphorus levels didn’t affect production results or bone strength negatively.

Pecsenyekacsa kutatásIn the next phase of our series of trials – after optimising the nutritional content – we investigated the different raw materials used in broiler duck feeds. The dramatic increase in feed raw material prices forced the industry to investigate the potential use of industrial by-products at a higher inclusion rate. Using by-products at a nutritionally optimal ratio is a tool to achieve cost-effective feeding.  We examined how different inclusion rates of sunflower meal, rapeseed meal and DDGS affected performance and meat yields in broiler ducks. Our trials revealed that the amount of soy bean meal can be greatly reduced by using by-products in optimal amounts and inclusion rates.

When comparing our trial results – regarding performance meat yield – shown above to Cherry Valley recommendations, we can conclude that the target fattening and slaughter parameters given by the company can be achieved by reducing or optimising the amount of the mentioned nutrients and adding further additives. Based on our results we recommend a revision of the nutrient composition recommended by the breeding companies, as this would improve cost efficiency and reduce environmental impact.

We recommend further research to support reaching the genetic potential of the breeds. The aim of our research and development activities is to design a modern broiler duck feed range that meets the nutritional requirements of the modern broiler duck breeds and fully exploits their genetic potential, providing biological efficiency to support competitive and environmentally conscious production.

Máté Kocsis
Senior consultant, poultry

Dr. Anita Juhász
Product manager
Bonafarm-Bábolna Takarmány Ltd.

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