While a section of farmers are witnessing uncertain times in the post-harvest phase, pastoral nomads in the marshes and along the ayacut region in the district are making the most of this time by rearing ducks for eggs, an untapped poultry avenue.
The rearers, some from as far as Tirupati, can be found at their tarpaulin homes, put up adjacent to harvested paddy fields in Nakrekal, Kethepally, Nidamanoor and other mandals.
“Grasshoppers, slugs and snails, insects and fallen grains in the fields have nutrition that serves as a supplement in protecting the ducklings, which are just out of the brooder,” says Ravadi Ramesh, a migrant tribesman from Kodad.
The duck pen arranged by Ramesh is a knee-high net enclosure with an entry that leads to a tarpaulin shed for chicks’ protection during nights and extreme weather. It houses about 1,000 six-week-old Khaki Campbells, each bought at ₹25 at Singarayakonda in Andhra Pradesh.
According to the officials at Animal Husbandry Office (AHO) here, duck farming has always been a lucrative project for farmers, along with farming. However, it has remained a less popular venture.
“They demand low maintenance and housing compared to chickens, and ducks are excellent foragers, like sheep,” says Assistant Director (AHO) V. Srinivas Rao.
Khaki Campbells are known as best layers, and each duck can produce over 250 eggs in a laying year, starting when they are six months old.
Selling at a minimum of ₹5 an egg, the duck-keeper says most of the exports are made to Kerala, Maharashtra and Kolkata through hatcheries and traders.
And when it’s the duck egg versus the hen egg, the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, gives nearly an equal score to both the types. A duck egg has a protein content of 13.5 gm against the chicken’s 13.3 gm, and has fat of 13.7 gm and 13.3 gm respectively.
However, the size and shelf life of the eggs, slightly higher for ducks, can make the difference. But with these layers, an egg a day for more than 250 days would surely keep the duck-keeper happy.