Influence of dietary strategy on progression of health and behaviour in mule ducks reared for fatty liver production

Animal. 2020 Jun;14(6):1258-1269. doi: 10.1017/S1751731119003367. Epub 2020 Jan 21.


Overfeeding in ducks is questioned because forced introduction of food into the animal and metabolic overload may induce damage to health and discomfort. In this context, the objective of our experiment was to measure the impact of dietary strategy on the progression of animal status evaluated through 28 health and behavioural indicators in ducks reared for fatty liver production. To do this, 320 ducks were forced-fed twice a day from 70 to 90 days of age including 10 days of overfeeding (87 to 96 days). They were divided into two groups differing in the feeding strategy during overfeeding period: a moderate feed intake (MI, an average of 376 g of maize flour per meal, n = 160 ducks) or at high feed intake (HI, 414 g/meal, n = 160 ducks). We evaluated 28 indicators related to Good feeding (n = 3), Good housing (n = 4), Good health (n = 10) and Appropriate behaviour (n = 11) principles, taken from the European Welfare Quality Consortium® at four stages: before overfeeding (BEF; 80 days), at the beginning (88 days), the middle (MID; 92 days) or the end of overfeeding (END; 96 days). Animals were slaughtered at 93 and 97 days to measure fatty liver weight at MID and END stages (n = 80 per group). The results showed that dietary strategy influenced the fatty liver weight at MID (+23% in HI v. MI group; P < 0;05) and END stage (+23%; P < 0.05). Assessment stage influenced 13 of the 28 indicators measured. Among these 13 indicators, (i) BEF differed from END stage for 7 indicators and (ii) the dietary strategy degraded all the indicators chosen to evaluate the Good feeding (2/2) principle, but had no effect on the indicators related to the Good health (0/4) principle while (iii) most of the indicators that evaluated Good housing (2/3) and Appropriate behaviour (2/4) principles were affected by an interaction between both factors. Our results suggest that (i) duck fattening status, including the fatty liver weight, and several welfare indicators progressed during the fatty liver production process; and (ii) feeding strategy influenced or even interacted with this progression.

Keywords: feeding strategy; foie gras; forced-feeding; welfare assessment; welfare indicators.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis
  • Animal Husbandry*
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Diet / veterinary*
  • Ducks / physiology*
  • Liver
  • Male