The exceptionally high temperatures of June, July and August can be stressful for duck farms. Heatstroke can have a negative impact on the animals. Although Muscovy ducks are generally more tolerant of heat than Pekin ducks because of their origin, temperatures above 27°C can cause problems for ducks.
It is important to recognize the signs of excessive heat in the duck farm. There may be behavioral changes such as feeding and hydration difficulties, which may upset their electrolyte balance. In this case, metabolic disorders of the ducks may occur and create a disruption of their reproductive system, impacting the quality of egg laying and causing health problems.
In recent years, the heat wave can strike from May or June. This is why it is important to prepare your building to anticipate temperature changes.
ANTICIPATING HEAT IN DUCK FARMS
Some equipment, such as misting, can be used to avoid the inconvenience caused by rising summer temperatures. High pressure misting is an essential cooling tool to help ducks get through the heat wave. The equipment used must provide at least 80 bar of pressure to allow sufficient atomization of the water droplets needed to absorb the heat from the air as the water evaporates. A properly used misting can lower the temperature of 7 to 8 degrees in the building.
In addition to the use of misting, it is recommended to use air blowers and turbines. This joint use of a cooling system and a ventilation system is very effective to reduce the temperature in the building, and thus limit the thermal stress of the animals.
Stainless steel misting ramps are to be preferred. The adequate number of nozzles, as well as their flow rate and their layout must be validated with the equipment supplier. The nozzles should be installed in the air circuit of the ventilation system and the size of the water droplets should maximize the heat exchange between the air and the water.
A pad cooling system (or evaporative cooling) can also be used. When used in livestock production, pad cooling involves the installation of wet pads on the walls or roof of the building, which are kept continuously wet by an irrigation system. Warm air inside the building is then drawn through the wet pads, causing the water to evaporate and the air temperature to drop.
CONTROL OF THE SETTINGS
In all cases, the use of the equipment has consequences on the management of the farm. For example, the use of a cooling system can degrade the litter more quickly. Therefore, to keep the bedding in good condition, it is necessary to control the humidity of the building. When the natural or building humidity is too high and exceeds the 90% threshold, the misting becomes less effective and it is better to turn it off temporarily.
As explained at the beginning of this article, ducks have a different degree of heat tolerance depending on their species. For example, the misting system should be turned on at 24 or 25°C in ducklings and at 27 or 28°C in Muscovy ducks.
The layout and use of ventilation systems should also be adapted to the species: the brewers should allow the pekin ducks to find areas with high air velocity (horizontal air turbines set at 20m²/h), while it is recommended to avoid creating such areas in Muscovy ducks, as this could lead to respiratory diseases to the ducks.
While the equipment installed can prevent heat stroke and improve the comfort of the animals, there are other ways to help the ducks get through these temperature peaks, such as the use of nutritional supplements to encourage the animals to consume more feed.
In any case, anticipating and preparing your building for heatstroke is necessary for the comfort and well-being of the animals. Taking into account and adapting to the needs of the ducks allows to optimize the management of the farm by avoiding the harmful consequences of heat on the laying and on the health of the animals.