A Waikato property coming to the market in late October represents a rare opportunity to enter the duck farming sector.
Paul Knudsen of PGG Wrightson Real Estate, Matamata is selling a 29 hectare property at Roto-o-Rangi 12 kilometres south of Cambridge and 30 kilometres south east of Hamilton Airport producing 5500 ducks per week.
“Farming ducks is a niche business in New Zealand. Most commercial duck production is situated within a few kilometres of Cambridge. Raising ducks commercially has an excellent support structure, and is one of the simplest business models possible.
“Baby ducks are delivered weekly to the duck unit as day olds and raised on starter feed in a heated brooding room for up to 14 days, then moved to the main grower sheds to finish growing. They are fed through an automated feed system, along with reticulated drinking water and continuous lighting, with dry bedding in the form of fresh wood shavings spread daily throughout the sheds.
“At 42 days the ducks are collected and transported for processing. Payment is on the basis of weight gain, and with weekly invoices ducks generate excellent cash flow compared to most other stock or crops,” says Paul.
Along with his wife Shirley, Brian Ritchie established Duck Park in the early 2000s.
“We retired from dairy farming and shifted to the property we previously used as our farm runoff. We lived in alternative accommodation and built a house, though I soon decided I needed something else to do. We looked at chickens, then found out about ducks and thought they would suit us.
“Our sheds had to come from Australia, arriving in a shipping container. We had to level the site first, then after the first one came, we decided another shed would help make the business work better, so we brought over a second shed,” says Brian, who reckons anyone with livestock experience could make a go of farming ducks.
“It’s an easy sort of job. You put the shavings down every day to keep your ducks clean. I would start at six or seven in the morning, and finish by lunchtime. The ducklings are delivered every week, the mature birds are also collected and taken out every week, usually early in the morning, and you are paid every week, which is good cashflow.
“You don’t need so much land, unlike a dairy farm for example.
“This would probably suit a young couple who have been share milking for a few years and are ready to use the equity from their cows for something different, or maybe an older farmer inclined to downsize, the same as how we started,” says Brian.
Brian and Shirley’s daughter Paula and her husband Vaughan Cockerton took over Duck Park in 2019.
Processing and marketing duck products, along with the hatchery that supplies the ducklings and the pre-fabricated sheds used on duck farms, all fall under the management of Quack A Duck, whose business manager Matthew Houston says the industry formula is simple.
“From the outside it is similar to chicken farming, though with less birds per square metre. With ducks, fundamentally you are farming by the bird, rather than by the flock. Growers can have confidence around their level of investment: the processing plant, genetics, farming practices, and the quality of sheds are comparable to anywhere else in the world. We have an established local market into food delivery, foodservice and supermarkets, plus an export business into the Pacific, the Philippines, the Middle East and Japan, and see plenty of potential for future growth.”
Domestic ducks have been kept for food consumption for at least 4000 years. Dating back to the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty in China, the Pekin duck is the most popular global breed for duck consumption and the basis of the New Zealand duck sector.
Duck Park comprises two titles: 15.7 hectares of undulating land where the two 120m x 20m growing sheds are located, which includes a six hectare steeper portion at the back of the property planted in pine trees, with the balance leased for grazing; and a 13.49 hectare separate title including a substantial 413 square metre home on a private elevated site up a tree lined driveway, also partially leased for grazing. The two properties will be sold together as the area of land for both is used by the duck business allowing it to operate.