Incorporating black soldier fly larvae into feed has the potential to reduce the environmental costs of poultry production as well as cut feed prices, according to newly published East African research.
Scientists from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation Poultry Research Unit examined whether fly larvae could replace soybeans or fish meal as a protein source in commercial poultry feed.
At present, Kenya does not grow enough soybeans and imports them, while demand for fish meal has led to problems around over-fishing in Lake Victoria. The ever-increasing animal feed costs are driving many vulnerable communities involved in animal husbandry out of business.
The study explored the potential of partially replacing the soybean and fishmeal (SFM) with black soldier fly prepupae meal (BSFPM) in Cobb 500 broiler chicken diets.
A SFM-based diet was compared to three experimental diets formulated by partially substituting SFM with BSFPM at 13.8, 27.4 and 42% of the crude protein (CP) in the starter feed and 11.0, 37.2 and 55.5% of the CP in the finisher feed.
Dietary effects of average daily feed intake, average daily body weight gain, feed conversion ratio, carcass characteristics, breast meat sensory attributes and the economic implication of their use in broiler production were evaluated.
The results, published in the Journal of Economic Entomology, found that replacement of SFM with BSFPM did not affect daily feed intake, daily bodyweight gain, feed conversion rate, aroma or taste of cooked breast meat.
A 16% higher cost benefit ratio and 25% better return on investment was recorded when the birds were reared on the highest concentrate of black solider fly compared to the conventional diet which was 19% more expensive.
The larvae are also a more environmentally friendly source of protein and can be raised on various organic waste materials. They also require less water than soybeans and the larvae’s waste can be used as an organic fertiliser.
The researchers concluded that while the results are promising, BSFPM is not common in the East African market and therefore further work to promote its rearing and commercialisation is needed in order to achieve the full potential of its use as a protein feed ingredient in broiler chicken feeds.
“The present results indicate a high potential for establishment of new enterprise for insect mass rearing in the African continent that will therefore generate income, create jobs and relieve the current burden on environment while providing alternative protein sources for the Cobb 500 broiler chicken widely reared in the world, and redirecting fish and soybean to direct human consumption,” the study concluded.