Black soldier fly larvae as edible enrichment for piglets

Providing small daily portions of live black soldier fly larvae to piglets after weaning benefits their behaviour while maintaining their performance.


C Measure

Average daily gain (g/pig/day) Final weight (g)

Dry matter intake excl. BSFL (g/pig/day) Dry matter intake incl. BSFL (g/pig/day) Energy intake incl. BSFL (MJ NE/pig/day) Feed efficiency (body weight gain (g/pig)/

dry matter intake incl. BSFL (g/pig)) Energy efficiency (body weight gain (g/pig)/ energy intake incl. BSFL (MJ NE/pig))


ommercial piglets are often abruptly weaned at an early age, when they are not yet accustomed to eat- ing solid feed. The unfamiliarity with solid feed combined with the stress piglets experience during

weaning often leads to diminished feed intake after weaning. This in turn can stall growth or even result in weight loss in the days following weaning, and is often associated with post-weaning diarrhoea. When piglets are housed in barren pens after weaning, they also tend to show manipulative be- haviours towards pen fixtures and other piglets, diminishing piglet welfare. A recent exploratory study, conducted by Wa- geningen University & Research in cooperation with Bestico, ForFarmers and HatchTech, investigated whether providing small amounts of live black soldier fly larvae after weaning could ease the weaning transition and improve piglet performance and welfare after weaning.

Table 1 – Performance of piglets provided with wood shavings or live BSFL.

Period Wood shavings Live BSFL p d0–d11 d11

208 ± 17

d0–d11 d0–d11 d0-d11 d0–d11


9611 ± 173 215 ± 14 215 ± 14 4.7 ± 0.3

0.92 ± 0.04 84.2 ± 3.5 214 ± 14 0.79

9748 ± 189 0.79 168 ± 11 211 ± 11 5.3 ± 0.2

0.03 0.82 0.15

1.01 ± 0.04 0.13 79.8 ± 3.1 0.42

Multi-functional larvae Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) are high in moisture, fat, and protein with an amino acid profile suitable for inclusion in pig feed. Because of their high palatability and water con- tent, they could function as a transitory feed between milk and concentrate, allowing piglets to steadily get used to eating solid feed. BSFL also possess many characteristics that are generally attractive to piglets, such as being edible, odorous, manipulable and destructible. Interacting with BSFL could satisfy the motivation of piglets to explore their surroundings, and thereby decrease the tendency to manip- ulate and potentially harm other piglets. Akin to other types of enrichment materials, regular interaction with BSFL could habituate piglets to novelty, decreasing piglet fearfulness and stress.

Experimental approach In this study, 16 pairs of unfamiliar piglets were housed in pens with a wood shavings bedding, from weaning until day 11 after weaning. All piglets had ad libitum access to a pelleted weaner feed. In half of the pens a small amount of live BSFL (75 g on days 1 – 4 and 150 g on days 5 – 11) was scattered through the pen twice a day, and in the other pens a similar volume of wood shavings was scattered at the same time to control for the effect of disturbance. Piglet growth and feed intake were measured regularly. On day two, five and eight after weaning, the behaviour of all pig- lets was observed throughout the day, and at the end of the experiment all piglets were tested for their level of neopho- bia by introducing them to an unknown environment and an unknown object and observing their behavioural responses.

Piglet performance For an overview of the piglets’ performance see Table 1. Pro- viding larvae to piglets for 11 days after weaning did not af- fect the piglets’ daily growth and their weight at the end of the period. Visual inspection of the wood shavings in the pens indicated that the piglets consumed the bulk of the

▶ ALL ABOUT FEED | Volume 29, No. 5/6, 2021

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44