Goose, Duck, Chicken, Game Bird Hatchery | Metzer Farms, California
Duck, Goose, Chicken & Game Bird Hatchery

Genetics and Breeding


Our Pekin Duck Breeding Program

February 21, 2011

All my Pekin breeding stock comes from Grimaud Freres, a French poultry breeding company. I have many customers that grow Pekin ducklings year round - some purchase ducklings weekly, others every other week, and others monthly. To supply these ducklings, I import Pekin breeding stock twice year.

Two sets of eggs are brought in for these Pekin breeders: the male line and female line eggs. Of course males and females hatch from both sets of eggs. But it is the females from the female line and males from the male line that are kept for my breeders. The remaining birds, called off-sex, are sold as commercial ducklings (to be grown for meat). With this type of breeding program, the selection emphasis on the female line is for excellent egg production and high fertility. The male line is bred for larger size, fast growth, and excellent feed conversion. When you cross a male from the male line with a female from the female line, you produce a large number of ducklings that grow quickly with good feed conversion. My Grimaud Hybrid is called the Star 53 by Grimaud Freres.

I was visited recently by Laurent Bomard, Grimaud's Western Hemisphere representative
(on the left in the picture).

Laurent explained that Grimaud's genetic program is now putting a much stronger emphasis on feed conversion. Feed conversion is expressed as a ratio: the pounds of feed it takes to produce one pound of duck. A feed conversion of 2.00 (or 2.00:1) means it takes two pounds of feed to produce one pound of live duck – a seven pound duck would have eaten 14 pounds of feed. Of course the desire is to reduce this number. With increasing feed costs, the feed efficiency of commercially grown poultry is critical.

Muscovy ducks and individual feeding stations behind them.

Grimaud has developed equipment to measure the feed conversion of each individual duck in a flock. With this information, they can select the better converting ducks for breeding stock. Each duck has a chip implanted in its neck (much the same as is done with horses and dogs for identification purposes). Each feeder can only be used by one duck at a time. When the duck reaches for feed, the scale automatically weighs the feed. When the duck leaves, the scale again weighs the feed and records the difference as feed eaten by that particular duck. The advantage of this system is each duck does not need to be penned separately to record the feed consumption – they can be grown in a flock.

The back side of the feed hoppers. Notice the Muscovy on the other side of the short wall.

For large operations, feed conversion is critical. Assume you grow 10,000 ducks a week, their feed conversion is 2.4:1, you process them at 7 pounds live weight and feed costs you an average of $340 a ton. With this scenario, you will use 4368 tons of feed, costing $1,485,120 in a year. Now let us assume you grow our Grimaud Hybrid ducks and achieve a feed conversion to 2.3:1. With everything else constant, you have just saved 182 tons, or $61,880 dollars a year. Even if you are only growing 100 ducks a week, you will save $618 a year.

Grimaud started with Muscovy ducks and became the world's leader in Muscovy breeding (France consumes much more Muscovy than Pekin duck meat). They then turned to Pekins, rabbits, pigeons, geese and guineas. Our French Toulouse geese are of Grimaud breeding as are our Pearl Guineas.

The other major, international breeder of Pekin ducks is Cherry Valley of England. Both companies sell breeding stock internationally. I visited Cherry Valley in 2008 when I was in Europe visiting hatcheries and researching which new incubators to get for our hatchery. Both companies are excellent Pekin breeder companies.

Is anyone doing any selection on their ducks or geese for characterisitics other than size or appearance?