Associate Professor Dominique Blache from The University of Western Australia (UWA) is leading a new Poultry CRC project attempting to reduce the incidence of floor laying on commercial duck farms. It has been estimated that about 20% (but this may be as high as 40%) of eggs may be laid outside of the nest box in any production system.
“Floor laying considerably decreases production efficiency because of a direct loss of production either due to risk of egg-shell cracking and contamination, or an increase in cost of production because the eggs need to be hand-picked” said UWA’s Professor Irek Malecki, who is working on the project with Dominique.
Dominique’s project seeks to:
- determine environmental and social factors affecting nest choice in laying ducks in commercial settings,
- determine the impact of experience on nest choice in laying ducks,
- design strategies to increase motivation of ducks to use nest boxes,
- improve nest boxes for ducks, and
- provide economic evaluation and recommendation on strategies to reduce floor laying.
To date, attempts at automating duck egg collection around the world have not been very successful, and industry is not adopting the available automated systems. Industry collaborators comment that commercial trials of the two types of automated nest boxes available in Australia have not solved the problem. It is important to reassess these nest boxes to identity any potential mismatch between their designs and the laying behaviour of ducks. This is not a localised issue, as researchers from INRA France (who have been involved in the development of commercial systems) still think that commercial nest boxes for ducks are not efficient.
This project will use a rational and systematic science-based approach to study how nest laying and automation of egg collection can be improved. The team will test the efficacy of different nest box designs, and investigate ways to improve them. This will promote development and uptake of innovative solutions, with the ultimate aim of improving the duck industry’s profitability.