Ms Shubey Nantege displays some of her products ready for sale.  PHOTO/COURTESY


How Shubey Nantege found a goldmine in rearing ducks

What you need to know:

  • Ducks can be reared under intensive, semi-intensive or free-range systems.
  • Under intensive system, allow a floor space of 4 to 5 square feet per duck for the laying breeds and 3 square feet per bird for the meat breeds.

When Covid-19 put the world on its knees in 2020, Uganda was not spared. Like in many other countries, everyday life was characterised by protracted lockdowns and movement limitations, which made it incredibly frustrating.

While others, like Ms Shubey Nantege Luzinda, risked putting themselves together to find possibilities in a sea of shortcomings that mostly lacked remedies, many folded their hands, threw up their hands, and resigned their lives to fate.

At the time, Covid-19 made it difficult for farmers not only to access farm inputs but also access the market; it was tough especially for those who lived far from the market centres.

How she started 
“It was a difficult time, we had a lot of time on our hands and also we had tried chicken rearing but the outcomes were not good, we decided to start something unique and that’s how we came up with this project,” she says.

When she says something unique, true to her words, Ms Luzinda and family went for the little known - duck rearing; a bird associated with dirty water.

But armed with only Shs5m, Ms Luzinda decided to start with only 50 ducks; 35 females and 15 males; she explains that they chose ducks because they were also disease-resistant and easy to feed and manage.

Located on Matuuga - Semuto road, Kirolo, the farm boasts more than 50,000 birds including ducks, geese, pigeons and guinea fowls.

“We have American Pekin, Rouen, blue Swedish, khaki Campbell, Muscovy species of ducks, there are also roman, Chinese and porcelain types of geese,” says Ms Luzinda.

The family capitalises on the Pekin because it’s clean, matures very fast, disease resistant good for both meat and eggs and also its multiplication rates are good.

Ms Luzinda explains that though it started as a trial in 2020, the ducks quickly multiplied and there was a need to look for a quick market, however the challenge was the perception that ducks are dirty animals.

“The birds became too many and feeding was becoming a problem so we had to quickly think; we decided that apart from selling live ducks, we had to start adding value so that they can have a longer shelf life,” She explains.

Ms Luzinda added; “We used to sell live birds, opened a restaurant in Kasangati and Bukoto but we also thought of duck sausages and packaging.” Without wasting time, Ms Luzinda and her team started packaging and making sausages on a small scale, the challenge was that they were not yet certified and they did not have the machinery and skills to add value.

Approaching UIRI
“I was stuck, but not down. That is when we learnt about the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI); she says, detailing how the UIRI’s initiative, where small businesses get a chance to innovate and use their machinery to develop products, saved her idea from being shelved.

In 2020, Ms Luzinda and family registered the business as Great Habib Smart Farm Academy and they are working with UIRI to actualise their dream.

“We are using UIRI to do the value addition, they are also helping us to store the processed products as we look for a market; I think the institution has pushed us to be more creative and innovative,” she says.

Ms Luzinda says there is high demand for their products but because they have not been certified by Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), they are losing out.

“Every supermarket is asking for the UNBS’Q-mark and yet getting certification is costly and slow with a lot of requirements, we reach a point and get tired,” she says.

She added; “Our target is penetrating the external market but with no certification, that’s a far dream but also with many export requirements we believe the profit margin will be low.”

In the initial stages, Great Habib Smart Farm academy has not been spared by public perception that ducks are dirty animal especially with the traditional –mbata enganda.

But over time, Ms Luzinda says that the perception is changing especially with extensive marketing and advertising as well as participating in exhibitions around Kampala.

Future plans
Great Habib Smart Farm Academy hopes to go into making duck burgers, frank fillers, and powder duck eggs and duck pizza.

Ms Luzinda says with a promising future, she is working with her neighbours to ensure sustainability as the demand for duck meat increases.

“We organized farmers and trained them how to rear ducks. Later we gave them ducklings as a startup capital because we anticipate an increase in demand for the duck and its products,” she says.

She adds: “in order to advance the area towards sustainable and effective agricultural practices, the academy also works with out-grower farmers where they provide the seed, contemporary farming techniques, and data-driven solutions.”

How to rear ducks well 

Ducks are beautiful birds, easy to keep and they bring warmth to a farm because of their economic and aesthetic benefits.

As any other poultry, you have to think wisely before rearing ducks. Keep in mind where they will be housed, their safety from predators during the day, water facilities, feeds and health management. Here are things to consider before starting.

Find out your main purpose for raising ducks. Do you want to produce eggs, meat or both? This will also guide you in determining which breeds of ducks you should be looking for.

The area in which you intend to put up the unit should be considered since ducks mostly prefer foraging and availability of natural vegetation and insects is important. Also, some duck breeds are noisier and may be a nuisance to neighbours.

The type of management system you choose will depend on your resources. First, you may decide to completely confine the birds, in which case they will be completely dependent on you.

Second, you can allow them to roam on the farm and confine them at night while third, you can keep them in confined runs.

You need to carry out a market survey to determine the type of market and customer base you target.

Breed selection
Selecting the right breed of duck greatly contributes to the success of the business. Kindly consider the ease of availability of the breed you intend to keep.

The Pekin breed is by far the most popular for meat production given its high growth rate, enabling it to attain market weights of 2.5kg in seven to eight weeks.

The Muscovy breed, popular due to the high adaptation to scavenging conditions, is also a suitable breed for meat.

However, it has relatively low growth rate but it is able to attain 4.5 to 5.5kg at 12 weeks.

If your interest is in egg production, consider the Khaki Campbell breed since it is able to lay 300 to 330 eggs per year under intensive system and 175 to 225 eggs per year under semi-intensive system. Its eggs are large, thick-shelled and weigh about 70 to 75g.

Ducks can be reared under intensive, semi-intensive or free-range systems. Under intensive system, allow a floor space of 4 to 5 square feet per duck for the laying breeds and 3 square feet per bird for the meat breeds.

The house should be well-ventilated, dry and rat proof while the floor should be partly covered with litter material (wood shavings, rice husks or wheat straws) and partly with wooden slats or wire mesh.

For the semi-intensive system, the house should have easy access to outside runs as ducks prefer to be outdoor during the day.

Provide a floor space of 3 to 4 square feet per duck for the night shelter and 10 to 15 square feet per duck for the outside confined run.

Under free-range system, 250 ducks can be accommodated in quarter acre land (highly dependent on forage availability).
Water for swimming is not an essential feature, however, continuous water flow channel with dimensions of about 20 inches wide by 6-8 inches deep should be constructed where outside runs are provided or at one of the end of house.

This allows the birds to immerse their heads in the water to prevent scaly, crusty or in extreme cases blindness.

Ducks kept in the free-range system are reared with minimal attention by the farmer since they are able to balance their nutrient intake by feeding on grasses, seeds, insects, earthworms, snails and small fishes, among others.

However, in confinement, the farmer must provide the birds with balanced feeds to enhance productivity. Ducks eat more than chicken and depending on size, an adult duck can consume between 150–200g of feeds a day.

Given the high level of feed intake and costs involved, it can be quite expensive and uneconomical to completely confine the birds, and as such the semi-intensive system would suffice.

Under the system, feeds should be offered only twice in a day, at 8am and at 4-5 pm, while they are let out to forage.
This way, the total amount of commercial feeds consumed in a day can be cut down, especially during the harvest season.

Key fact 
Ducks are hardy and relatively resistant to poultry diseases. However, those kept in large groups and are confined to small areas are more susceptible to health problems.