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Ducks or other waterfowl as pest control in cranberry bogs?? Need Help Brainstorming! :)

 
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Hello Fellow Permies!

Long story short, ive been looking to buy a (preferably) organic farm and have successfully found a fantastic affordable one, full of potential!
Needless to say ive been doing my research on it and cant seem to find anything on ducks or other waterfowl in use in cranberry bogs specifically (as pest control). I know its a long shot to find someone on here who has experience with cranberry farms or cranberry bogs, as there really arent a lot in the US. This farm is certified organic and im trying to brainstorm out of the box ways to keep it that way, and to maybe use nature/natural elements to help my "potentially" future farm :)
Im a big Joel Salitin fan and he uses pigs to stir compost and such; he likes that integration of natural livestock/ animals on the farm to essentially enrich the produce and help eachother thrive, that sort of thing. Thats pretty much what im looking for here. I read that pests are a huge deterrent for cranberry farms to go and stay organic, so that is the reasoning for me asking these questions.

I know that some people say that ducks will "sometimes" only eat the pests and soft weeds and such, and would just like to see if this is the truth, or if they would in fact go after the raw cranberry crops, or the plants, or both. To be honest, im just not sure that raw cranberries would be something ducks would eat? I know geese and other waterfowl can also be good pest control so im open to any option. Think guinea fowl would work??
I know chickens are not an option, this is my forte and i havent known a chicken yet that wouldnt wreak havoc on my garden at any given chance :) little buggers
Just brainstorming here......feel free to brainstorm with me!

thank you for the input! Wish me luck!!!

Cheers!
M
 
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Ducks eat a lot of strange stuff.

I had ducks because they took care of the ticks on my lawn, as well as toads, frogs and snakes. YES SNAKES. But keep in mind, I live in Maine and so they are not poisonous, nor are they really big. I have never seen a snake where the ducks roamed, other then watching a duck swallow one down. I also used them to keep the insects that come out during the day, and fly low: in check. For insects that come out at night, and fly higher, I put up bat houses.

I am not sure how the ducks would do in a cranberry bog. They make a mess, call "Gleeing" which puts a slime-surface on the lining of the pond. That is because a duck turd is 90% water. It helps seal the pond, but I would be hesitant to buy cranberries off a farm that had duck turd growing in the same water. That is just me though. I would check USDA requirements though first.

I do not have cranberries, though they are common here in Maine.

I have a natural cranberry bog on some land I have, BUT we saw a snake there and have NEVER been back. That was in the mid-1980's so I am sure the snake has moved on, but I am not going to take a chance!!
 
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I know that I might be a wee bit leery of eating fruit anywhere near duck waste. It stinks.

Ben Faulk uses baby ducks in his rice patties. So maybe if you raise baby meat ducks for slaughter yearly with the cranberry plants it'd work well.
 
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I've had experience with a few different kinds of ducks. Here's my experience:
Meat ducks, like Pekins, are LOUD, obnoxious, dumb, kinda lazy, and OBSESSED with water.  Filthy.  They will foul and muck any puddle or pool you let them near.  They'll never leave its side unless you're throwing food.

"Fancy ducks" like cayugas are quieter, smarter, better layers and good broodies, and can be WAY less water-brained.

My favorite though, have been muscovy.  Extremely prolific layers, excellent mothers, big bodied and fast growing with excellent meat, and;
1. they're SILENT.  They can only hiss and squeak
2.  they can fly and can get stand-off-ish with predators, which keeps them a bit safer (especially when a good drake tops 15lbs+ and has huge claws and powerful wings)
3.  They're NOT water obsessed and do NOT need water to breed.  They will babble in a puddle and do the usual duck thing, go for a swim and a bath, but they prefer to hang out on dry land, rather than live in the water.  For this I loved them when I had an open irrigation ditch (like, 1'x1' ditch, not a huge thing).  They'd play and forage in the water but didn't fill it with feces or foul it.  They like to slurp holes in the embankment and filter through soil and sediment (like any duck), but they EXCEL in mosquito mitigation.  The year I had muscovies on that irrigation ditch I hardly saw a single mosquito around the house.  Which leads to...
4. they are excellent foragers, especially of water-born pests.

Granted, they can multiply like CRAZY if you don't intervene.  A hen will readily set 15-25 eggs and might just hatch every one of them.  They grow rapidly, reaching butcher size in just 3-4 months (depends on their diet though).  Luckily, people seem to love the meat and eggs both.  They're also a popular backyard breed due to their silent nature.  

Overall though, I'd never have ducks ever again

I'm not familiar with cranberry bogs.  How big is the bog, how deep is the water, and how much space is there in and around the plants?  Chickens will happily wade through knee-deep water/mud/muck in search of food, as will turkeys, and though I've never kept them, I'm inclined to think guineas would as well.

edit; I don't know about the edibility of the berries or plants according to poultry and fowl, however I'll note that the pekin ducks I had mowed down my mature corn like they were beavers.  Just nibbled through the stalks til they fell over then devoured the whole things.  Having any of the bird species around things like elm, mulberry, quince, apple trees, and other edible trees/large shrubs resulted in the birds eating leaves, buds, and any fruit they could reach.  I'd foremost be concerned with knowing for certain that the birds wouldn't just start eating your cranberry plants...
 
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Hi Michelle,

Im not a cranberry expert, but from all my experience studying them. The feilds are irrigated like any other crop, if needed, until harvest: at which point they flood the feilds, to float the berries for easy pickings. These are called bogs, because they are built to hold water for the harvest. They may be designed to hold extra moisture well, but they aren't like a pond from my understanding. During the rainy season, you may have times of standing water, when it rains very heavy, but they are grown in areas of fairly sandy soil with good drainage around the sides, mostly sand. So from my limited observations, they are fairly well drained, and won't be much like a duck pond, unless your pumping in massive amounts of water during harvest. For most bogs, the harvest is one day, and the water drains through the sandy sides quickly. The berries don't need flooding to grow, the flooding simply alows the berries to float when shaken of, so they are easily scooped up on the surface of the water during harvest.

You might be able to forage ducks there, during the dormant season, when they're not actively growing, but even then im not sure if that trampling will damage the crowns. Cranberries are fairly fussy, only growing in a few spots commercially, requiring unique growing conditions. I think you will need to be the new frontier in the cranberry permaculture department, as cranberries aren't widespread like other forms of plant agriculture.   For ducks, rice feilds are new thing in permaculture!

I Hope that helps!
 
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I saw the title of this thread and I was thrilled. (Still am)

So, cranberry bogs are a big deal in the NJ Pine Barrens near where I grew up. Now I live in Lewis County, WA and I have ducks! I have Golden Cascade ducks which are an all-purpose breed developed by Dave Holderread down in Corvalis, OR (yeah yeah, I know south is not down :P ).

Anyway, mallard descendent ducks are poopy poopy slimy water poopy, and they might try to eat the cranberries. Maybe. Not sure.

So..."organic" doesn't mean what I thought it meant, but UMass recommends Integrated pest management.

Some folks in Long Beach, WA, Starvation Alley gave it a go. They've moved on, BUT do not be discouraged! I think you can still reach out to them and discuss Ducks in The Bog.

I really hope you are successful with Ducks in The Bog. It's an exciting idea, and I'd eat your cranberries by the truckload.

Please let us know what's up!

So cool.
 
Michelle Arbol
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OMG!!! Thank you everyone for the input! Im so glad that this is a subject that others are interested discussing with me

Ok-- let me clarify my above post, since i think there may be confusion, which is ok.

So, im really asking here about if anyone has any experience specifically with ducks in cranberry bogs, or around raw cranberries, or cranberry plants. Or if they know from experience or a friend/relatives experience that ducks will for sure eat/or for sure not eat these berries around growing and harvest season.

Thats pretty much it...but i do appreciate all the other varied answers too tho!!!

Let me respond with this:

those of you who wouldnt eat organic cranberries because they were exposed to duck poo at some point, make me Wholly Sad and my response is two fold. Pick you poison, and the USDA has VERY STRICT produce washing standards for both organic and non organic produce, period. So, in essence, if a farmer actually is following these standards, you wont see an ounce of any animal poo on any produce, ever. All these salmonella scares you see in the media are from 1: someone not following these washing standards and/or 2: someone who did follow these standards, then somehow in either storage or transportation there was some accident where the produce was exposed to fecal matter.
The pick your poison comment, let me explain. Were all permies here. I think most of us generally prefer organic. Well, with non-organic produce youre consuming produce treated with chemicals, and, honestly, id rather have the organic stuff that the chemical stuff, any day

As for ducks, i appreciate the responses. Even tho im no duck "expert" i have been around ducks and do know about them, i just dont know how they do around produce, specifically cranberries.

As for growing cranberries and cranberry bogs, yes, they are not filled with water year round. But they are still called cranberry bogs. Now, these ducks, by NO means would ever have free rein on these bogs, there would be a controlled pest control release that id do with the ducks where i regulate their time in each bog, whilst they help me eliminate said pests from bogs. Prob a few times per week, or for however long id need them to. Other than these monitored times, i have no intention to allow ducks or any other animals live inside of my bogs/ hang out in my bogs/ ruin my bogs/ poop daily all over my bogs.

 
Michelle Arbol
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Beth Johnson wrote:I saw the title of this thread and I was thrilled. (Still am)

So, cranberry bogs are a big deal in the NJ Pine Barrens near where I grew up. Now I live in Lewis County, WA and I have ducks! I have Golden Cascade ducks which are an all-purpose breed developed by Dave Holderread down in Corvalis, OR (yeah yeah, I know south is not down :P ).

Anyway, mallard descendent ducks are poopy poopy slimy water poopy, and they might try to eat the cranberries. Maybe. Not sure.

So..."organic" doesn't mean what I thought it meant, but UMass recommends Integrated pest management.

Some folks in Long Beach, WA, Starvation Alley gave it a go. They've moved on, BUT do not be discouraged! I think you can still reach out to them and discuss Ducks in The Bog.

I really hope you are successful with Ducks in The Bog. It's an exciting idea, and I'd eat your cranberries by the truckload.

Please let us know what's up!

So cool.



I really appreciate your post, it was and is so encouraging!!!

And actually, its their farm that im considering, it is up for sale!! i was considering hitting them up with my questions, but i want to first do my research, and see if i can get answers outside of having to bother these, im sure, BUSY people. I know they said that its just a ton of work keeping the organic cranberries pest and weed free and at one point they were straight weeding the bogs by HAND!!! YIKES! I mean, its just little old me, and im not sure how id do weeding acres of cranberry bogs by hand, all the time. I mean, id do it. But idk id be able to keep up with it by myself. In addition, the pest issue. I think they had some organic certified treatment they did, but thats why im trying to brainstorm more of a "permie" feel kind of natural way to maybe help with pests and maybe even with some of the weeds......

But i may just have to test out if ducks would actually eat cranberries, if nobody has any experience with ducks and this specific crop. AND, i did get a response about which ducks might be best to use so i may have to experiment with different breeds.........

more to follow :)
 
Michelle Arbol
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Jen Fan wrote:I've had experience with a few different kinds of ducks. Here's my experience:
Meat ducks, like Pekins, are LOUD, obnoxious, dumb, kinda lazy, and OBSESSED with water.  Filthy.  They will foul and muck any puddle or pool you let them near.  They'll never leave its side unless you're throwing food.

"Fancy ducks" like cayugas are quieter, smarter, better layers and good broodies, and can be WAY less water-brained.

My favorite though, have been muscovy.  Extremely prolific layers, excellent mothers, big bodied and fast growing with excellent meat, and;
1. they're SILENT.  They can only hiss and squeak
2.  they can fly and can get stand-off-ish with predators, which keeps them a bit safer (especially when a good drake tops 15lbs+ and has huge claws and powerful wings)
3.  They're NOT water obsessed and do NOT need water to breed.  They will babble in a puddle and do the usual duck thing, go for a swim and a bath, but they prefer to hang out on dry land, rather than live in the water.  For this I loved them when I had an open irrigation ditch (like, 1'x1' ditch, not a huge thing).  They'd play and forage in the water but didn't fill it with feces or foul it.  They like to slurp holes in the embankment and filter through soil and sediment (like any duck), but they EXCEL in mosquito mitigation.  The year I had muscovies on that irrigation ditch I hardly saw a single mosquito around the house.  Which leads to...
4. they are excellent foragers, especially of water-born pests.

Granted, they can multiply like CRAZY if you don't intervene.  A hen will readily set 15-25 eggs and might just hatch every one of them.  They grow rapidly, reaching butcher size in just 3-4 months (depends on their diet though).  Luckily, people seem to love the meat and eggs both.  They're also a popular backyard breed due to their silent nature.  

Overall though, I'd never have ducks ever again

I'm not familiar with cranberry bogs.  How big is the bog, how deep is the water, and how much space is there in and around the plants?  Chickens will happily wade through knee-deep water/mud/muck in search of food, as will turkeys, and though I've never kept them, I'm inclined to think guineas would as well.

edit; I don't know about the edibility of the berries or plants according to poultry and fowl, however I'll note that the pekin ducks I had mowed down my mature corn like they were beavers.  Just nibbled through the stalks til they fell over then devoured the whole things.  Having any of the bird species around things like elm, mulberry, quince, apple trees, and other edible trees/large shrubs resulted in the birds eating leaves, buds, and any fruit they could reach.  I'd foremost be concerned with knowing for certain that the birds wouldn't just start eating your cranberry plants...



thank you for the thoughtful, and frankly very useful input about ducks! My brother is my duck go to man, hes had peking, khacki campbell, and muscovoys (pardon my horrendous spelling on all of those)
Anywho, i feel like you definitely know what youre talking about and i feel like i may need to do some additional duck research!! Maybe i should start another post to inquire to the duck experts about which breed ducks eat all their garden produce and which leave it alone, but still eat weeds and pests well??? I might be able to get a poll going and find out which breeds to stick with, and which to nix for use in my bogs.
Now were thinking. Thank you so much for getting the brain juices flowing
 
Michelle Arbol
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R. Steele wrote:Hi Michelle,

Im not a cranberry expert, but from all my experience studying them. The feilds are irrigated like any other crop, if needed, until harvest: at which point they flood the feilds, to float the berries for easy pickings. These are called bogs, because they are built to hold water for the harvest. They may be designed to hold extra moisture well, but they aren't like a pond from my understanding. During the rainy season, you may have times of standing water, when it rains very heavy, but they are grown in areas of fairly sandy soil with good drainage around the sides, mostly sand. So from my limited observations, they are fairly well drained, and won't be much like a duck pond, unless your pumping in massive amounts of water during harvest. For most bogs, the harvest is one day, and the water drains through the sandy sides quickly. The berries don't need flooding to grow, the flooding simply alows the berries to float when shaken of, so they are easily scooped up on the surface of the water during harvest.

You might be able to forage ducks there, during the dormant season, when they're not actively growing, but even then im not sure if that trampling will damage the crowns. Cranberries are fairly fussy, only growing in a few spots commercially, requiring unique growing conditions. I think you will need to be the new frontier in the cranberry permaculture department, as cranberries aren't widespread like other forms of plant agriculture.   For ducks, rice feilds are new thing in permaculture!

I Hope that helps!



it does! ill brainstorm anything! Yes, i know cran plants are fussy, which is why it DOES make me nervous having ducks around them, but id still like to be able to make something work, if it could. As far as the bogs not being pools, yes, theyre not. Theyre dry most of the year, and maybe this is a good thing with relation to ducks!! hah! the ducks would be traipsing around in the DRY ponds, hopefully removing pests and weeds, while hopefully still leaving the cranberry plants in tact, see where im going here? There would be controlled releases of these ducks into the bogs, where i could monitor them, then heard them to another bog, and repeat however is sustainably necessary. Id just be concerned that the ducks might eat my 1 cranberry plants and/or 2 ripe/semi ripe cranberries that are still on the plant. so im just trying to brainstorm for this, or see if anyone knows anyone who like say, had ducks and they had some cranberry plants the ducks left alone...in their yard.....i know its a long shot because cranberries grow in such specific conditions.....oh well
 
Beth Johnson
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Michelle Arbol wrote:OMG!!! Thank you everyone for the input! Im so glad that this is a subject that others are interested discussing with me


those of you who wouldnt eat organic cranberries because they were exposed to duck poo at some point, make me Wholly Sad



Oh, I'm not worried about the "Organic" label, because, to me, it's a meaningless label IMHO. If it seemed like I was saying something else, I apologise and offer this clarification: I sent you links to folks who were trying to grow "organic" cranberries, so I was trying to say that poop (heh) on that label.
 
Beth Johnson
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its just little old me, and im not sure how id do weeding acres of cranberry bogs by hand, all the time. I mean, id do it. But idk id be able to keep up with it by myself. In addition, the pest issue. I think they had some organic certified treatment they did, but thats why im trying to brainstorm more of a "permie" feel kind of natural way to maybe help with pests and maybe even with some of the weeds......



Here it's just little old me as well, so I totally get it. I volunteer to help you weed - we could probably get a working party going. There are a lot of permies in the PNW, so if you decide you need some help, I'll be there!
 
Michelle Arbol
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Beth Johnson wrote:

Michelle Arbol wrote:OMG!!! Thank you everyone for the input! Im so glad that this is a subject that others are interested discussing with me


those of you who wouldnt eat organic cranberries because they were exposed to duck poo at some point, make me Wholly Sad



Oh, I'm not worried about the "Organic" label, because, to me, it's a meaningless label IMHO. If it seemed like I was saying something else, I apologise and offer this clarification: I sent you links to folks who were trying to grow "organic" cranberries, so I was trying to say that poop (heh) on that label.



oh, i didnt think you were saying you wouldnt eat organic cranberries because of duck poo, there were others who had that reaction. I seem to be getting that reaction a lot from people, and im really not sure why.
Anywho, yes, i agree about organic labeling in this country. People dont really know what it "means" and it means a lot different than what people think, typically. But as a farmer, and from a business perspective, it does help that a farm is USDA Certified Organic, because that certification actually enables the trust of the masses in your product. They see that label in the stores and automatically are willing to not only pay more for produce or a product that is generally considered "healthier" and are also more trusting of the way and methods used to grow said products. If that makes sense...And as a farmer you need to have somewhat of a business mindset. Whats going to get my farm product to sell best? If your not selling your product, you are a failed farm. Plain and simple. Farmers need to make money off their product or they are just as toast as anything else....
but i digress. Yes! I was saying in my last reply to you, that i am considering that exact farm that theyre selling! I hope i can make it work, we shall see....
 
Michelle Arbol
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Heres a cool "ducks in permaculture" article i was reading, love what theyre doing, would love to mirror some of these techniques and ideas
https://permaculturenews.org/2014/07/31/ducks-permaculture-system-scotland/
 
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