Episode 229. Ducks! Regenerative Grazers

This is the World Organic News for the week ending 31st of  August 2020.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Well as I informed ye last week, I was due to enter the ranks of grandparenthood in the last 7 days. On Wednesday the 26/8/2020 young Rory entered the world. A healthy 4030g that’s just under 9lbs in the old money. Mother, father and baby doing well. Unfortunately with the COVID restrictions in place it will be some time before I can visit the wee tacker but that’s just the world we’re living in at present. 

Now to this week’s fare. We have been keeping ducks for some six months now. In the last ten days they’ve started laying so we’re eating quite well. The thing I noticed with ducks though is their grazing. They are great at lawn mowing, to a point. Left on a piece of ground for too long and they start to dig up roots and expose soil. Lesson learned. I opened up the area they were on to pasture standing about eight inches, 20 cm, tall. They ate the grasses down from the top of the stems and left the brassicas, until they were starting to flower. 

But they didn’t eat all the pasture. They were voiding waste as they do and with their large, wide feet they were flattening the pasture. As a test I tossed some barley out to them. Eventually they realised what it was and dug down into the flattened green matter to find the grains. I’m about to move them to slightly longer pasture and will observe them there. As importantly I will be observing the response of the area they have just left. Given they like to dig into the soil with their beaks, to defecate anywhere and to run as a mob across the space, I’m hoping for quite a bounce back by the pastures. We have but fourteen ducks and they are running on about 150 M2 about 1600 square feet. 

The work they’ve done is remarkable. I’ve put a pic in the transcript on the website, https://worldorganicnews.com/episode229/, showing the differences along the fence line is really quite instructive. In the same way roosters can be a problem in a suburban setting, having a few ducks could be too. You can keep hens without a rooster, and you can keep ducks without a drake but the ducks can be a little more noisy than hens. Depending upon your neighbours, the size of your yard and how many eggs you’re prepared to give away as peace offerings, ducks might be a thing worth considering. They do like to hunt down snails, their droppings are no more nor less offensive than chook poo. The good thing about ducks is they lay before 10 am, usually. This means you could keep them in a house and run until 10 and then rotate them put across your lawns, if you must have those, or across vegetable beds after harvest and before planting. Kept on deep litter in a smallish area with occasional runs around the yard/garden would make for happy ducks.

We acquired ours from a couple whom lived in suburbia. The’d built a pond that drained into a huge rock based filter system and then onto their gardens. They were feeding a premium priced duck food and the enclosed space they lived in was sand lined with a solid corrugated iron roof. A duck palace so to speak. 

They received a bit of shock on arrival at our place. I was given the end of the feed from their old house and they weaned from that onto pig pellets. They had no idea that food was available from anything but a bucket. Even the idea of grazing took two to three weeks to occur to them. They did okay after that. Barley was a complete mystery to them. I’ve never had stock reject barley before. Once I tossed the barley into the grazing, the penny dropped. Laying it out in rows was a waste. Broadcasting it across the pasture worked. Live and learn.

I have kept ducks before so they weren’t a complete mystery to me but these ones did get me thinking and experimenting which is always a good thing. They are quite often the next step after the gateway drug that is chickens. I was never really interested in keeping ducks after that first adventure. The eggs are magnificent, true enough, but the meat return was never much. Enough for a sandwich really which is not much for the work of processing a bird. And that’s the other thing, one rooster will take care of twenty plus hens. For reproductive purposes, one drake to four or five ducks. So the feed costs are higher but really, worth every cent once you’ve tried a duck egg. Compared to chooks, the eggs are larger but most of the extra size is taken up by the yolk. They are great for hamburgers, covering the whole bread roll. We had our poached this morning and I was impressed. Normally there’s a little stringy egg white clouding up the water but not with duck eggs. Everything held together and lifted out easily. They stood up on the toast and were a thing of beauty.

Spring begins here on Tuesday and the latest forecast from the Bureau while good for the eastern half of the mainland was not exciting for Tassie. Here in the North West we are expecting the usual rainfall patterns which is good and higher than average temperatures, especially overnight which may or may not be a good thing. Given that we are down on rainfall this year, a warmer Spring may take the moisture levels down to unpleasant levels. Time will tell. Who can know what’s coming next this year. Grin, adapt, improvise and overcome will be our mantra.

As I’ve mentioned for a while now, there’s a link to a Udemy course in the show notes entitled “Growing a No-Dig Garden” if you’d like some more formal assistance to get you up and gardening. And a big thank you to those who have taken the course, it is quite gratifying to see I am helping. The feedback has been helpful too.

Remember: Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.




Growing a No-Dig Garden on Udemy


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