The following is an introduction to the growth cycle of ducks commonly raised for meat. The ducks are slaughtered after 10 to 12 weeks of feeding and breeding is performed year-round. Thus, the feathers and down materials are agricultural wastes and the slaughter house will preliminarily collect the feathers and down materials and provide these materials to the downstream plants for further fine washing and processing of the feathers and down materials.
According to studies conducted by Ilan Branch of the Livestock Research Institute of Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan on breeding and management of ducks raised for meat, the feathers of geese and ducks are constantly shedding and regenerating, but hair follicles actually start to develop during the stage of embryo development. The hair follicles as well as the first lanugo both originate from the epidermis of the embryo and hair cells extend into the dermis and form small protrusions, which become a sign of feather bud development. On the fifth day of embryo development, the feather buds start to show on the skin and then quickly develop into lanugo on the tenth day after hatching. After hatching, appropriate nutrients for feather growth are usually ignored. Because the content of proteins in feathers is around 89% to 97%, duck development is closely associated with feather growth, and feathers will grow from the base of the pores in different parts at different times (weeks). Therefore, most studies measure the contents of amino acids required for feather growth.
The number of ducks raised for meat slaughtered each year is around 40,000,000, mainly include the mulard (mule ducks), accounting for roughly 80% and the remaining 20% are the Muscovy ducks and the Pekin ducks. Each breed has different growth characteristics and meat quality traits and thus the consumers and markets for these ducks are different as well.
Breeding mulard (mule ducks) has slowly transitioned from riverbed breeding to semi-confinement or house-confinement breeding, and some vendors have also adopted an integrated management style by combining fish farming and animal husbandry.
The Muscovy ducks can live on land and thus can grow well in the absence of ponds. Except for the brood time, Pekin ducks bred for their meat are usually raised outdoors with open ponds or ditches deeper than 10 cm. To provide a clearer understanding of how ducks raised for meat are bred, the following table shows the three feeding stages for ducks raised for meat.