Poultry Farming

Geese production and management

Geese are found worldwide. They can adapt equally well to hot climates (as long as shade is provided) as to cold climates - as seen in their ability to withstand northern winters out of doors with the minimum of shelter. In spite of this broad adaptability, commercial goose production is only important in relatively few countries in Asia and Europe.

Here we have quoted some of the well recgnized breeds of geese, detailed information is provided on a number of representative breeds from around the world. In Appendix I all the breeds which FAO has been able to identify are listed, along with their performance characteristics.

  • CHINESE (Anser cygnoides)
  • EMBDEN (Anser anser)
  • HUOYAN GOOSE (Anser cygnoides)
  • KUBAN (Anser cygnoides)
  • LANDES (Anser anser)
  • PILGRIM (Anser anser)
  • POMERANIAN (Anser anser)
  • WHITE HUNGARIAN (Anser anser)
  • WHITE ITALIAN (Anser anser)

The goose, of all poultry species, is a bird used for multipurpose production. Raising geese provides an opportunity to produce meat at a low cost in unfavourable areas while fatty liver production requires considerable input but leads to a very high value product for an affluent market. It is the structure and function of the digestive system of the goose which allows it to consume and digest large amounts of high-fibre feedstuffs and that sets it apart from other classes of poultry. This ability to utilise high-fibre feedstuffs, when combined with its foraging and scavenging ability and its aquatic nature, readily lends the goose to a number of sustainable agricultural systems. At first glance, the digestive tract of the goose does not appear dissimilar to that of other poultry species. Its oesophagus is relatively long, with mucous glands to lubricate the passage of food and extends into the spindle shaped crop that serves as a reservoir for food storage.

The most important aspects of goose production are the management and feeding of the breeder flock as these can have a major impact on the reproductive rate, including the number of eggs produced, percent fertility, percent hatch, and subsequently the number of goslings produced per goose.The total number of eggs laid per year by geese is very low compared with most other poultry species. Anser cygnoides geese generally have higher egg production than Anser anser geese. But for most breeds, the total number of eggs per year does not exceed 30-50, and sometimes less, even if the birds are under good management conditions.The management of geese destined for breeder flocks is the same as that for market geese in intensive and extensive management systems, including the feeding management for the brooding and growing periods although sometimes geese for breeder flocks need a higher level of feed restriction to ensure that they do not put on excess fat during the growing period.

The feeding of geese during the egg laying period is perhaps the most important feeding period in the entire cycle of goose production. Poor nutrition during this period will adversely affect egg production and the low rate of lay of geese is already one of the major constraints in its production. It must be remembered that the geese must ingest adequate nutrients both for body maintenance and egg production.

In recent years, research from a number of sources indicates that the energy requirements per day for the laying goose is between 800-850 kcal ME per bird per day. Unlike most other species of domestic fowl, geese are unable to regulate their feed intake according to energy needs. Therefore, taking into account the energy level of the ration, the body weight of the birds and the ambient temperature, care must be taken to ensure that:
  • breeding geese do not consume too much energy;
  • The daily crude protein intake during the laying period should be between 45-50 g per day depending on rate of lay and egg size. Of this 25-30 g are required solely for egg production;
  • The goose must also consume between 10-12 g of calcium a day, depending on egg size and rate of lay, to meet the needs of egg shell formation which constitutes about 12 percent of the weight of the egg;
  • the intake of essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals is important and must be sufficient to support both egg production and subsequent embryo growth.

Specific breeder rations have been developed which normally contain 2200-2500 kcal ME/kg, 13-15 percent crude protein and 2.60-3.00 percent calcium.
  • The total feed consumption for goslings, depending on breed, for this initial three week period will be between 2.5-2.7 kg of starter ration. Goslings will consume between 7-8 litres of water during this period. If the goslings have access to high quality forage (ryegrass, white clover, cabbage, or even nettles) during the three week brooding period, this could reduce their intake of the complete ration by as much as 20 percent. Brooding is the management practice to which young poultry are subjected immediately after hatching and for geese this is considered to be the first three weeks of life. The most important aspect of brooding is to provide extra heat so that there will be no temperature shock when the newly hatched goslings are moved from the incubator to the area where they will be brooded and grown. To ensure that the temperature in the brooding area is stable, it is important that the heat sources be turned on at least 24 hours before the goslings arrive. After the brooding period geese can be grown to market weight under either intensive confinement conditions, extensive range-type conditions or a mixture of the two. The growing facility need not be sophisticated since these birds are not demanding - a simple shelter should be adequate. The most important factor is to ensure that the goslings are warm during the brooding period and protected from sun, heavy rain and predators, especially during the night. In hot countries, a wooden shelter is sufficient for this purpose.

Particulars Male Female
Egg wt (g) 170.1 170.1
Hatching wt (g) 104.9 104.3
1 week wt (g) 307.9 295.9
2 week wt (g) 800.0 755.8
3 week wt (g) 1513.0 1365.5

  • When the goslings are three weeks old, it is possible to restrict their feed intake up to 75 percent of ad libitum. However, where a higher level of restriction must be exercised because of a shortage of either a starter ration or mixed grains, then every effort must be made to provide the goslings with young tender forage either through direct grazing or by cutting and carrying the forage to them. Fresh kitchen and/or garden waste may also be used during this period. If the goslings are required to graze, then any starter ration or mixed grains should be fed at night so that during the day the goslings will be hungry. This will increase their forage intake. If feed restriction is practised at this young age, it is very important to keep a close watch on the goslings to see that they remain in good health. In many parts of the world, there are no slaughtering facilities with the proper equipment to kill and process geese. Where such facilities are available, they are the method of choice for killing and processing, particularly if the number of geese to be killed and processed is fairly large. If such facilities are not available, geese can easily be killed and processed by hand. Geese which are to be killed should have their feed removed at least eight hours beforehand to reduce the likelihood of contamination from either faecal matter or material from the digestive tract should it be ruptured during processing. The geese should continue to get water during this eight hour period.
  • For killing and processing a modest number of geese, the method of choice is to use a killing funnel (average length 35-40 cm, entry diameter 25-30 cm, exit diameter 10-12 cm). The procedure is to suspend the goose head down in the funnel. This holds the body and allows the neck and head to protrude. The underside of the neck is turned towards the operator who, holding the back of the goose's head in one hand, severs the ,jugular vein by cutting on the left side of the neck. The head is not cut off. The funnel prevents the wings from flapping and the goose bleeds freely. Before the bleeding, it is necessary to anaesthetise the bird. Electrical stunning is the best method. Two types of stunning apparatus are available. One is manual and has a grip with electrodes at the end which are set on the eyes of the bird. The second is used in industrial processing plants. Here the geese move on a slaughter line and receive an electric shock when their heads go into a bath filled with an electrolyte. There are two electrodes: one in the solution, and the second in contact with the legs of the geese. However, if an electrical stunning apparatus is not available, a sharp knife (with a blade no more than 1 cm wide and sharpened on both sides) can be used to penetrate the brain through the end of the beak groove in the back of the mouth before cutting the jugular. The blood may be caught in a blood cup. Blood cups are normally made of metal and are approximately 10 cm in diameter and 20 cm deep with a hook to attach it to the beak and a weight in the bottom to hold the head steady during the bleeding process. After the bleeding is complete, geese can be manually dry plucked which gives both a good quality carcass and good quality feathers although it is generally considered to be too labour intensive. The alternative is to scald the carcass by immersing it in water at 60-68°C for 1-3 minutes to loosen the feathers. The precise time and temperature depend upon the feather condition of the birds and may vary considerably between groups of oeese. It is necessary to scald the birds only enough to ensure easy plucking. Agitating the carcass in the scalding water and adding a little detergent helps wet the feathers thoroughly. After scalding, the birds are ready for plucking. Normally the large wing and tail feathers are removed by hand and the rest are either plucked by hand or by machine. Either way it is not easy to remove all of the down and pin feathers. To do this a wax dip is used. To make a wax bath, solid poultry wax is melted at a temperature of 65-70°C. The plucked goose carcass is then dipped into the wax and agitated slightly for 1-2 minutes. The goose carcass is then removed from the hot wax and dipped into cold water to harden the wax. The carcass is put back in the hot wax to add a second layer of wax and then into the cold water abain. The wax is stripped off the carcass either by hand or with a dewaxing machine and takes with it the remaining down and pin feathers. Note that the used wax can be melted, cleaned and re-used. After the removal of any feathers that may have been missed through either the plucking or wax dipping process, the carcasses are ready for eviscerating. The dressing percentage for geese is approximately 70 percent with giblets and 63 percent without. After evisceration, the carcass is ready for immediate consumption or storage, which may mean further processing. If the carcass is to be stored, it must first be cooled.
  • There are some differences in the slaughtering of force-fed geese for their fatty livers. Given the high value of the fatty liver, which represents the main commercial part of the goose in this case, it is necessary to take extra care during plucking. Small feathers and down on the abdominal section of the bird are not taken off with a classical rubber finger plucking machine as it can damage the liver. A special piece of equipment, with two plastic rollers turning in opposite directions giving a softer action, has been developed (Figure 49). The feathers are pinched between the rollers and removed without any damage to the liver. If this kind of equipment is not available, manual plucking of this area is recommended. After the force-fed geese are plucked, there are two schools of thought as to the next step. The classical one is to cool the whole bird and eviscerate it after at least 12 hours of cooling. The second approach is to extract the fatty liver immediately after slaughtering, and to cool it as fast as possible. The latter process provides a product of better quality as it reduces fat loss during cooking
  • Where freezing facilities are available, the long term storage of frozen goose carcasses is both easy and convenient. The carcasses should be packed in plastic ba~s, with as much air removed as possible, preferably by vacuum pump. The bags should be made to adhere as tightly as possible to the surface of the carcass to avoid freezer burn. This is accomplished by submerging the bag into hot (80-90°C) water after sealing, which causes it to contract tightly around the carcass in it. To keep the carcasses for up to 12 months, a temperature of -30°C is required. If the carcasses are to be kept for only six months, a temperature of -18°C is adequate.
  • Curing and smoking of goose carcass parts is also effective in preserving carcasses for limited periods of time. The normal process is to first cure the goose carcass in a brine solution and then to smoke it. A curing solution of 14 percent salt (NaCI plus Nitrite) is suitable. Sugar and various spices may be added for flavour and in accordance with tradition. The goose carcasses should remain in the solution for 48 hours at a temperature between 2-5°C. After removal, the carcasses can be rinsed in water for one hour and then smoked. If no further cooking is required after smoking, then a smokehouse temperature of 85-90°C is required and the internal temperature of the carcasses should reach 63-65°C. Otherwise, a smokehouse temperature of 40-50°C is adequate. The smoking time required will depend on the density of the smoke and can vary from 3-5 hours. Preserving meat from forced-fed geese by first cooking the meat and then preserving it in jars or cans is popular, not only as a method of preserving goose meat but also because of the variety of products it can yield. The first step in preserving goose meat in this way is to cut the carcass into parts. This means removing the breast meat and cutting off the legs, thighs and wings. These parts are then cooked and put into jars or cans for heat preservation (one hour at 100°C is suitable for meat which has been previously cooked). Adding liquid goose fat to each container before heat preservation and sealing, not only adds flavour but helps to preserve colour and provides a protective layer of fat on top of the meat. To obtain clean liquid goose fat, the fat removed from the carcasses should be heated to 100°C to remove the water and then poured through a sieve to remove the non-fat particles.Goose meat can also be stored by first removing it from the carcass and then using it alone or in combination with other meats and spices to make a variety of sausage and other meat products that can be preserved by heating, smoking or drying.
In Eastern Turkey, where the external winter temperature is generally below freezing, the storage of goose meat is achieved through a combination of salting, dehydration and natural refrigeration. After killing in late November, the goose carcasses are salted and then packed tightly in a box for one week. They are then hung in the air to dry. After drying, the carcasses are stored under natural temperature conditions until eaten.

Carcass parameters 11 weeks of age 17 weeks of age
weight (g) or size (cm) weight (g) or size (cm) Percentage of bled plucked weight weight (g) or size (cm) Percentage of bled plucked weight
Live body weight 5350 g 117.32 6150 g 116.04
Bled plucked weight 4560 g 100.00 5300 g 100.00
Thigh + shank bones 100 g 2.19 99 g 1.87
Feet 137 g 3.00 138 g 2.60
Wings 515 g 11.29 530 g 10.00
Thigh + shank muscles 549 g 12.04 575 g 10.85
Gizzard 168 g 3.68 178 g 3.36
Chest girth 414 cm 440 cm
Breast bone length 166 cm 181 cm
Liver 96 g 2.10 105 g 1.98
Neck 193 g 4.23 216 g 4.08
Head 163 g 3.57 183 g 3.45
Heart 34 g 0.75 40 g 0.76
Pectorals minor 65 g 1.42 78 g 1.47
Pectorals major 476 g 10.44 588 g 11.09
Thigh + shank, skin + fat 126 g 2.76 165 g 3.11
Breast skin + fat 214 g 4.69 310 g 5.85
Abdominal fat 195 g 4.28 301 g 5.68