The Mule duck, a cross between the Muscovy and the Pekin, is a hybrid species that is particularly well suited to the production of foie gras (fat leaver). After a period living outdoors, the Mule ducks stay inside their building for the fattening phase. How to start fattening Mule ducks ? What are the protocols for keeping the ducks in optimal conditions until slaughter? Answers.
Our excellent knowledge of the genetics of Mule ducks currently allows us to anticipate needs and to know very precisely what their potential is. That is why the species is the currently the easiest to farm for the production of the highest value cuts such as the liver, thigh and breast.
For most of their lives, Mule ducks are raised outdoors but they can return to their building when they wish to take shelter. Then the animals remain indoors for 10 to 12 days for the fattening period. The breeders will then be able to apply the recommendations provided by Grimaud Frères’ teams, in order to provide optimal conditions to promote the ducks’ digestion and to enable their full potential to be expressed while taking into account their welfare and comfort.
The comfort of Mule ducks during fattening
Within the building, the Mule ducks are placed collectively in small groups: between 4 and 10 ducks, depending on the fattening accommodation. It is important that the animals have enough space (standard: 1000 cm²/duck) so they can maintain their behavioural habits like beating wings, moving around or interacting with their fellow ducks.
Control of the air and temperature of the building during this fattening period is essential for the ducks to be comfortable and to have no problems digesting. Thanks to a dynamic system, control of the inflow, outflow and volume of air in the building adapts to the capacities of the ducks and the outside temperature. As David Chantereau, a technical sales representative at Grimaud Frères in the southwest of France explains: “The air inlet called cooling is a honeycomb-core cardboard partition that allows air to enter into which water is circulated in a closed circuit to cool it.”
To complement the cooling, the so-called dynamic buildings are also equipped with two air control systems: extractors that allow the air to be drawn through the building and then expelled, and the mixing that supplies air directly to the ducks as a fan. This air supply is obviously connected to the animal’s needs while it is being fattened. Good genetic knowledge of the Mule duck means that air control protocols can be defined in advance to always promote its comfort, but the fattener can check its welfare by inspecting the duck’s feathers. If they are dry, everything is fine but if they are wet, the duck is sweating and so the air regulation must be adjusted.
Fattening can start in any season
Thanks to this dynamic system, it is possible to fatten Mule ducks throughout the year. Although the high summer temperatures will require greater vigilance by the farmers to control the air inside the building, modern technical resources are widely available to start fattening ducks in any season.
Since their environment is optimal, the Mule ducks will be able to digest even more easily the two meals a day that will be given to them by the fattener. Fattening of the ducks can be carried out using two types of feed: the most frequent nowadays is pâté, i.e. crushed maize mixed with water to obtain a soluble consistency that facilitates digestion and the second practice is whole grain maize used in short supply chains and for the red quality label.