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Larvae meal as fishmeal replacement for piglets

In an attempt to learn whether larvae meal of the black soldier fly can be a sustainable alternative to fishmeal for piglets, Chinese researchers have studied the effects of different inclusion levels on various performance parameters.

The black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) is well known as one of the most promising species to be used in livestock nutrition, because of its relatively high crude protein content, with a well balanced essential amino acid profile.

Alternative to fishmeal

In a new study, researchers from various organisations in Guangdong province, China, zoomed in on the question whether the larvae could also be an alternative to fishmeal and whether that would affect growth performance, apparent nutrient digestibility, blood parameters and gut morphology of weanling piglets. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Animal Feed Science and Technology.

Larvae are growing in popularity as raw material for pig diets. - Photo: Dick van Doorn
Larvae are growing in popularity as raw material for pig diets. - Photo: Dick van Doorn

Trial with 128 weanling piglets

The scientists assigned 128 weanling piglets to 4 dietary treatment groups. They included full-fat H. illucens larvae meal in diets at increasing levels (0%, 1%, 2% and 4%), formulated for 2 feeding phases:

  • Phase I (from day 1-14); and
  • Phase II (from day 15-28).

Each treatment consisted of 8 pens, with 4 pigs per pen. After 28 days of feeding, the scientists sacrificed 8 piglets per treatment.

Effects on ADG and FCR

Among the results shared, the researchers noted that the body weight on day 14, average daily gain (ADG) from day 1-14, and the relative weight of the liver, pancreas, and small intestine had a linear increase in response to H. illucens larvae meal consumption, while the feed conversion ratio (FCR) from day 1-14 exhibited a linear and quadratic decrease in the response. Linear and quadratic decreases were detected for the crude protein and crude fat digestibility. On top, 2% H. illucens larvae increased the villus height in the jejunum, the scientists wrote.

Changing the host metabolism of weanling piglets

The researchers concluded that the results indicated that feeding 2% full-fat H. illucens larvae meal to partly replace fishmeal changed the host metabolism, immune status and intestinal morphology of weanling piglets. They stated that the findings further increase the knowledge and provide new information about the potential of black soldier fly larvae meal as a suitable alternative fishmeal source for swine feeding.

The scientific article in Animal Feed Science and Technology was authored by Miao Yu, Zhenming Li, Weidong Chen, Ting Rong, Gang Wang and Xianyong Ma, attached to the Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China; and Fengyin Wang, Guangzhou AnRuiJie Environmental Technology, Guangzhou, China.