Meet Our Runner Ducks | Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate Stellenbosch
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Meet Our Runner Ducks
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While dog may be a man’s best friend, here at the farm we believe that duck is a man’s best assistant. Animals have long been used to assists man in many different fields, from Saint Bernards carrying vital medication into remote parts of mountain ranges, to horses plouging fields across the world. But how many ducks do we have in service? Meet our team of highly skilled Indian Runner Ducks, who help keep the farm free from pests and snails and help keep our use of chemicals in the vines to a minimum.

Indian Runner Ducks

Indian runner ducks are an unusual breed. They stand upright like penguins and instead of waddling, they run. The Indian Runner Ducks don’t lie fly and instead of making nests, they normally lay their eggs as they walk. They hardly make any noise, with only the females quacking. They are the perfect breed to use in the vines, since they are mostly preoccupied with foraging snails and slugs and love to spend their days snacking away. One man’s pest is another duck’s snack.

Indian Runner Ducks 2

Here on the farm we have a huge flock, which ranges from around 700 to around 900, depending on the time of year. Our resident duck expert, Denzil, looks after them as if they were his own children and takes particularly dedicated care of our hatchlings, which he looks after in their own nursery.

Our ducks even have their own daily parade, where you can watch them run to work and set about keeping pests off of our vines. It’s a great sight for the whole family and it’s always a hit with kids. Guests are free to roam around and even visit our ducklings in their heat-controlled nursery.

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73 thoughts on “Meet Our Runner Ducks

        1. Hi Anne!

          Tuesday 30 and Wednesday 31 August – runner ducks parade at 09:45 on their way to the vineyards and at 15:30 on their way back home.

          Kind Regards

          david@vergenoegd

    1. Hi John – happy to hear you enjoyed it, it certainly is a good wine! Lots more where that came from and many more to choose from! Have a great day!

  1. A saw your runner ducks on Facebook did some quick research to see if they’d been brought to America by the 1880s and 1890s, which is the time frame of the books I write. This has given me a story idea, and I’m curious as to how the idea of using ducks in your vineyard came to be. Also how you get them to return in the evening? Feeding time, I presume. I’d appreciate any information.

    Debra Holland,
    NY Times and USA Today bestselling author

    1. Hi Debra!

      The time frame of the importation into America is about right- late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Everyone knows that ducks eat snails and as a school kid our duck breeder, John, had a few ducks and a vegetable garden (used income from these to supplement his pocket money) and he tried using the ducks to eat the snails in his veggie garden – this worked like a bomb but he also learnt that they will eat small tender vegetables as well! But the idea and the interest in ducks stayed with him and when he joined the family business of wine farming he experimented with the ducks in the vineyards – this experiment was much more successful except he needed many more ducks. They were acquired from a few hobby breeders locally but it was only when John’s interest in ducks led him to join a poultry club that he was introduced to the Indian Runner Ducks and he realised these would make the perfect snail eating force…then he literally started with 3 white runners and three black runners and these laid the foundation for the present flock, there were a few more additions along the way and today there are about 20 different colours in the flock. They are creatures of habit and they know to come home for their evening meal!

    1. Hi Alyssa

      The costs range depending on different criteria – it is however not the cheapest method of pest control but it has tremendous advantages regarding conservation and the well-being of other animals! Plus, the quality of the wine is just so much better!

      1. Hi Alyssa – I now have a figure for you! Feed, housing and care of 1100 ducks costs us around R250 000 per year! That’s a lot of grain!

  2. Love the ducks! They seem like a great way to keep the pests under control without using chemicals! Can you tell me how they are housed when they aren’t eating in the vineyard? Do they just roam free elsewhere on the land? And do you have a use for their droppings as fertilizer at the winery? Just curious. Happy Earth Day!

    1. Hi Suzi

      Thanks for your interest! When our Runner Ducks are not in the vineyards, they have some “free-time” to roam a bit on the lawns (under the watchful eye of our flocksman) and have a paddle in the dam! After a day at work, they head back to their pens, covered and fenced for protection from the elements and predators. Regarding their droppings – when in the vineyards their “deposit” acts as a natural fertilizer and their pens are cleaned daily and added to our compost heap to eventually be used around the estate. A rich and nutritious fertilizer!

  3. We visited Vergenoegd on May 4th. What a beautiful place. The duck parade was a highlight of our visit to South Africa, and the wines and cheese tray were delicious. Also, I’ve never seen peach seeds used for landscaping mulch. I wonder where I can find those in Texas??

    1. Hi Brent!

      Thank you for visiting our Estate! We’re thrilled you had such a great time! Agreed, this really is a beautiful place and our ducks are magnificent little creatures! I’m hoping a Texas-based nursery or landscape designer will be able to help with sourcing peach seeds for you! Happy to have had you here, please visit again when you return to South Africa!

      Kind Regards – david@vergenoegd

    1. Hi Maria

      A little bit of routine and a little bit of guidance by our flock herdsmen sees them home everyday! It’s really quite easy. Once they enter the gate and pass the Manor House, they pretty much know where to go without much more herding!

      Kind Regards
      david@vergenoegd

  4. Hi, I saw this story on social media and I was curious! How do you control the duck population? I imagine that they regularly produce eggs, which would lead to an exponential growth of ducks! Do all the ducks born there stay in the farm?

    1. Hi Belle

      We keep breeding ducks separate from working ducks during the season! Eggs from breeding ducks are kept in temperature-controlled incubators until hatched (duck eggs are incredibly vulnerable to temperature fluctuations). These ducks are either sold or join our quack squad! Eggs from our working ducks are checked for faults / cracks and sold in our shop!

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

  5. We visited and stayed at Stellenbach in May of 2014
    Disappointed that nothing was ever said about the ducks while we were there.
    Brochures do not mention them either. Was it because it was the wrong time of the year?

    1. Hi Evelyn

      The estate was managed slightly different back then. New ownership since October 2015 has seen many positive changes take place at Vergenoegd and great, new ideas have been introduced, both in management style and what the estate has to offer (other than the usual wine tastings, we now offer unique wine, olive oil, coffee and tea blending experiences, picnics, harvest lunches, winter feast lunches, duck parades, kids’ activities and of course…superb wines, etc).

      Our ducks are an integral part of the estate (not only do they contribute to an excellent eco-friendly pest control method but they are well cared for as members of the Vergenoegd family) and we have put a lot more emphasis on that over the past 7 – 8 months!

      Apologies regarding your disappointment from the past but you’ll be quite surprised at the wonderful and great transformation of Vergenoegd! When you are in the area again, please feel free to visit and experience a lot more of Vergenoegd Wine Estate!

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

  6. Hi, great to see the pictures of your running ducks. As of this spring, we have two running ducks patrolling our modest (500 m2) backyard in the Netherlands. Wonderful animals. They eat all the snails and slugs, but leave our veggies pretty much alone (trampling doesn’t count). And as a bonus, the female lays a big, lovely egg EVERY day for two months at an end now. I was wondering, are your ducks egg-layers like that as well? That’s a LOT of eggs… what do you do with these? (Apart from hatching some for flock replacement, I presume).

    1. Hi Geertje

      These are wonderful little creatures and so easy to work with! You have some very diligent, hard-working ducks that will keep your veggies free of pests! They also provide the ground with a rich form of fertilizer!

      We never get used to our daily 1000 duck parade past the Manor House when they head off to work in the mornings and when they return in the afternoons to their pens where they are grain-fed! They are fascinating!

      Our ducks are not shy of laying eggs! We keep our breeding ducks and working ducks in separate pens. Eggs from our breeding pens are kept in temperature-controlled incubators until the chicks hatch (duck eggs are incredibly vulnerable to temperature fluctuations). Eggs produced by our working ducks are checked for faults / cracks and the good ones are sold from our shop!

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

      1. Hello

        I have tried this wine before and it’s good! But I’m a bit concerned about the animal welfare aspects of the ducks. Can you provide details of their housing (ie are they kept in cages, how much space per duck etc) and confirm what you do with hatched ducklings that are not of the required sex?

        Thanks

        Hannah

        1. Hi Hannah

          We’re pleased that you enjoy our wines! No need to be concerned about the welfare of our ducks! They are kept in an enclosure during the evening for safekeeping against predators! The living space is measured by turning comfortably with an open wingspan…and there is plenty of space!

          You are more than welcome to visit and see them parade on their way to work, while they are in the vineyards and while they are in their enclosure!

          There is no specific gender requirement for a hatchling. We do not cut-throat if the first born is a female…we keep them all!!! We have designated breeding pens separate from the “working duck” enclosure!

          I hope this answers your questions and puts you at ease! We love wine and we’re all animal lovers as well! The well-being of our ecological system, its animals and plants are all very important!

          Kind Regards

          david@vergenoegd

      2. Thank you very much David! If I ever go to South Africa I’ll be sure to visit your winery! In the meantime I’ll see if your wines are available here. Kind regards, Geertje

  7. Hi! I’d love to see this in person! What time(s) of the day so you release the ducks daily? I’d like to pop in at the right time.

    Sabrina from Canada

    1. Hi Sabrina

      Our ducks parade at the following times when they head off to work in the vineyards in the mornings and when they return in the afternoons:

      Mon – Fri 09:45 & 15:30
      Sat – 10:00, 12:30 & 15:30
      Sun and public holidays – 09:45, 12:30 & 15:30

      It really is something quite special! We hope to see you soon!

      Kind Regards

      david@vergnoegd

    1. Grazie per aver condiviso queste informazioni sulle nostre anatre e la fattoria sul tuo sito web . E ‘ bello vedere la storia delle nostre anatre diffuso in tutte le parti del globo , a livello locale e internazionale , tra cui l’Italia !

      Cordiali saluti ,
      Il team Vergenoegd

      Thank you for sharing this information about our ducks and the farm on your website. It is great to see the story of our ducks spread to all parts of the globe, locally and internationally, including Italy!

      Kind Regards,
      The Vergenoegd Team

    1. Hi Gabrielle

      Once harvesting is complete, the ducks return to the vineyards! It’s a cycle that repeats yearly!

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

  8. We have 2 runner ducks in our area patrolling the neighborhood. They return 3x day to our property for food and water as I have started to feed them …….now being 4 weeks. They are very tame and come running when they see me.
    I am however worried about their safety and predators. Even the bin scratchers in the area.
    Would you be able to house them with your ducks and assist with catching them without hurting them.
    It’s a male and female. Apparently their owner moved and left them to fend for themselves. They are popular and well known by the residents in Loevenstein Area. ( next to Welgemoed and the tygerberhills .
    Regards.

    1. Hi Yolandi

      Thank you for getting in touch! I’m just awaiting feedback from our duck breeder but I do not see any issues with collecting them and safely transporting them to Vergenoegd where they will meet many new friends!

      I’ll be in contact shortly!

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

  9. We have moved to the WP; and were aware of the Runner-duck pest-control, but more involved in unpacking. Arlet & Jaccky informed us about the new Craft/Eaterey Market at VERGENOEGD and were surprised and entertained by a sudden appearance of the WORK FORCE…. so wonderful event to see….. not as noisy as the Coon Carnival but JUST AS FANTASTIC……. and it is a daily Carnival… thanks to the keeper and his herders

    1. Hi Jossie & Antoon!

      Thank you for visiting Vergeneogd – happy you enjoyed the duck parade! These little characters never cease to amaze young and old, no matter how many times one has already seen them! Hope to see you back again soon!

      Regards

      david@vergenoegd

    1. Hi Jessie

      Apologies for the delayed reply. Yes, the rain is quite light today but if it comes down really hard…then no.

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

  10. Hi David,

    I think your Runner Ducks are absolutely wonderful!
    When I googled “Indian Runner Ducks” you were at the top of the pile!
    Hey I thought Vergenoegt was reknowned for wine?

    Anyway, I live on half an acre of land in Johannesburg, which for the last 22 years I have transformed into an Indigeounous Forrest (passing the one hundred mark in December 2014 of different Indigeounous trees and shrubs) resulting in a minimum Indigeounous bird species count of at least 26 per day.
    I have a “natural” black rock pool with big waterfall and have built two big ponds (at least 3000 x 6000 x 1500mm in size for Mozanbique Tilapia and Platana) plus a running stream between the two of about seven Metres long.

    I have a very large Avery full of birds, Guinea pigs and hens to entertain my extended family ‘s exploding little toddlers. ……you might want to call me farmer brown!
    Anyway I want to add Indian Runner ducks, as I believe (with all my snails and slugs and pond weed ) they will be in a veritable paradise.

    My perimeter walls are 2500mm high with electric fencing. What else would I require to make them safe and happy.
    My intention is to leave them to roam free.

    Regards
    Roger

    PS Do you still have bush vines from the 1820’s? …….such a pity so many estates pulled up the old vines!

    1. Hi Roger

      That’s quite fascinating, we love the idea!

      Ducks need to be kept safe from any predators – so if you have any otters in the area, ensure that fencing is established deep into the ground as they will dig beneath and through to get dinner!

      Loads of snails is great but a grain-based dinner will also keep them happy after a day of foraging!

      Crows love duck eggs. That’s where geese come in handy – they keep crows at bay. Alternatively, ensure that eggs are collected frequently!

      We had Merlot bush vines but they were removed in the 90’s as it was pretty much the end of their production lifespan.

      Let us know if you need any further info or assistance!

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

  11. Do you ever have any youngsters for sale… I have 70 on my dam and surrounds on my farm in George and these 70 have started laying now .. However I am being inundated with orders for the duck eggs and cannot keep every one happy They dont appear to be good breeders. Should you ever have for sale I would be very happy to buy some. Regards Ben de Villiers Mysthill Farm George My no is 083 3888 566

    1. Hi Ben

      Thank you for contacting Vergenoegd. Yes, we can assist with providing some young ducks (we help them through the first 2 – 3 months after birth as Indian Runner Ducks are not the best guardians! We sell ducks for R150 each. We do not sell ducklings and fertile eggs. Please send an email to sales@vergenoegd.co.za and CC media@vergenoegd.co.za with your request!

      Many Thanks!

      david@vergenoegd

  12. Interesting, but the problem usually with vines is mildew, not snails in Portugal. Ducks wouldn’t help much there, I guess, so you probably still need to deal with that, don’t you?

    Looking forward to your answer

    Ian

    1. Hi Ian

      Good question! Downy mildew and Oidium thrive in the Cape winelands – the spores actually overwinter in the soil between the vines. When circumstances are right they will germinate and infect the vines. We spray fungicide preventatively to curb any infections. Ideal circumstances include high humidity, moisture (small bits of rain) and temperatures of 20 degrees and above during the day.

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

  13. Hi David

    Thanks for your informative answer. Do you use biofungicide in cases where mildew does occur? Or does the preventive spraying solve the problem completely? I’d be pleased to here of your experience with this. Apparently, it is in used in such countries as Brazil, Turkey and Israel where one version was developed. Clearly, anything that reduces the rising amount of sulphate in most wines today is in the consumer’s best interest.

    1. Hi Ian

      The preventative spraying helps to prevent infection overall. Pure sulphur spraying has been phased out in South Africa, because of the rising sulphur levels in wines. The products we use contain some sulphur, but not enough to have an effect on the grapes, and we only spray these in the beginning of the growing season, and not when the grapes are ripening. In fact, during ripening, we do not spray anything, because it can have an effect on the wines.

      Hope this answers your quastions – let us know if you need any further info!

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

  14. Hi, we would like to see the ducks on 3rd or 4th November. At what time are they running then and do we need any tickets or can we just come over? Kind regards, Farina

    1. Hi Farina

      You are welcome to visit Vergenoegd to see our ducks parade. Parade times are 09:45, 12:30 and 15:30 during the week. You need not book for the parade but if you’d like to stay for a light snack or lunch, a reservation is required. Please email reservations@vergenoegd.co.za or visit our bookings page on the website for more info.

      Please let us know if you require any further assistance!

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

    1. Hi Ethel

      Thank you! It is our hope that more farms will adopt sustainable farming practices.

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

    1. Hi Teresa

      Duck parade times:

      Mon – Fri: 09H45, 12H30 & 15H30
      Sat – Sun: 10H00 & 12H30 & 15H30
      Public Holidays: 10H00 & 12H30 & 15H30

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

    1. Hi Wulf

      Thanks for visiting!

      Thrilled that you enjoyed it!

      Hope to see you soon again!

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

    1. Hi Matt

      Yes, to confirm the duck parade times:

      Mon – Fri: 09H45, 12H30 & 15H30
      Sat – Sun: 10H00 & 12H30 & 15H30
      Public Holidays: 10H00 & 12H30 & 15H30

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

  15. We are coming to Capetown for our second visit from Vancouver, BC, in January.

    I am not in any way a “wine person” and I have never wanted to visit a winery before but the ducks have me roped in now. We will definitely see you when we come down!

    Capetown absolutely enchanted us and it was truly eye opening to finally see South Africa after seeing it so much in the news growing up. We are thinking of perhaps retiring down there in a few years; the beach at Glencairn that allows dogs is calling us and our boys.

    1. Hi Robert

      Thank you for connecting with Vergenoegd.
      We look forward to welcoming you from distant shores!
      The ducks will not disappoint – neither will the wines, remember our Runner Duck range!
      Reservations for breakfast or lunch is recommended – please be sure to contact us closer to the time so that we may assist with your booking.

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

  16. Do you sell Indian Runners, Crested Ducks and if so, how much are they? I visited Vergenoegd in March this year and had a wonderful time, but there were no ducklings and the adults were in quarantine at the time.
    Regards
    Claire
    P.S Do you have Call Ducks?

  17. Wow! This is such a fantastic way of keeping pests under control and providing a good fertilizer. Talk about making your own little eco-system. I’m in Canada and they don’t see your wines at our licensed distributors–Do you know if you can send it here?

  18. Hi. Will I be able to see the ducks at any. Time when I vsit

    I will visit today, Monday 16th July at about lunch time

    1. Hi Karen

      Duck parades at Vergenoegd are daily (Mon-Sun) throughout the year at 10:30, 12:30 and 15:30. Seasonal changes might have times amended but for now, these are the times!

      Kind Regards

      david@vergenoegd

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Contact

Vergenoegd Wine Estate

We here at Vergenoegd cannot wait to meet you and our ducks will be pretty excited too! To find out more about all we have to offer, feel free to contact us.
HOURS OF TRADE:
Mon - Tues: 8am - 5pm
Wed - Sun: 8pm - 8:30pm
VISIT US:
Baden Powell Drive, Faure, Stellenbosch, 7131

If you wish to contact us, but find that our landline is engaged, please feel free to call our cellphone number: +27 (0) 63 629 3629.