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provided BSFL in a short period of time, which was expect- ed because of the high palatability of the larvae. Piglets pro- vided with BSFL did have reduced pellet intake as compared with control piglets for several days after weaning, and in line with this the behavioural observations indicated that they spent less time on eating pellets. However, when lar- vae consumption was included in the calculation, the total dry matter intake did not differ between treatments. The to- tal energy intake, and the energy and feed efficiency were also not affected by providing larvae. These results indicate that live BSFL can substitute part of the diet of piglets with- out hindering their performance. Previous studies already demonstrated that including BSFL meal in pig diets can have neutral or positive effects on pig performance, and this study confirms that this also holds true for whole, live BSFL provided to weaner piglets. It is important to note that here only a relatively small amount of live BSFL was provid- ed, and ad libitum BSFL provisioning may have different ef- fects. Directly after weaning, when solid feed intake is often low, ad libitum BSFL provisioning could improve nutrient in- take in this critical period. This in turn might support long- term good intestinal integrity and growth. When a substan- tial part of the diet is replaced with larvae, the nutrient composition of the pelleted feed will have to be adjusted to guarantee adequate pig performance.


Piglet welfare Key results from the behavioural observations are shown in Table 2. Across the three days during which piglet behaviour was observed (day two, five and eight after weaning), pig- lets that received BSFL spent less time on exploring and ma- nipulating pen fixtures and other piglets than the piglets that received wood shavings. The presence of larvae also caused the piglets to spend much of their time exploring the litter where the larvae were located. It is interesting that this shift towards more favourable, less damaging behav- iours occurred despite the larvae being only present for a short period twice a day. Also, the piglets in this experiment were housed under relatively good conditions, with bed- ding and a lot of space. In more barren commercial pens, which can lead to more welfare problems related to damag- ing behaviours, the provision of larvae probably has even greater benefits for piglets. When confronted with an unknown environment containing an unknown object, piglets in the larvae treatment exhibited more exploratory behaviour towards the object and spent less time freezing, indicating a reduced neophobic response. It is possible that the rewarding feedback caused by explor- ing and consuming larvae creates positive associations with novelty in these piglets, making them more able to cope with unfamiliar situations. Such skills can be beneficial as commercial piglets housed in large groups often come across changes in their physical and social environment.


What comes next? The current exploratory study successfully demonstrated that providing small amounts of live BSFL daily to piglets after weaning can improve piglet welfare while maintaining piglet performance. The next logical step is to investigate whether these effects also hold for piglets housed under more barren commercial conditions. Experimenting with different amounts of BSFL provided in different ways in these condi- tions, and combining this with research on nutrient uptake and the digestibility of larvae will help construct a complete picture of the value of BSFL as both feed and enrichment. Ad- ditionally, the effects of providing BSFL during different phases of pig rearing are yet unknown. Providing BSFL before weaning may further ease the weaning transition, and later in life BSFL can be a high-quality feed source that can support pig performance. Overall, the prospects of using BSFL as edi- ble enrichment are clear, although more research is needed before commercial application is possible.


Providing live black soldier fly larvae to piglets could ease the weaning transition.


Table 2 – Percentage of time spend on welfare- related behaviours on day 2, 5 and 8 combined, of piglets provided with wood shavings or live BSFL.


Behaviour


Pig-directed oral manipulation Exploring pen Eating feed


Exploring floor


Wood shavings 2.4 ± 0.3 2.8 ± 0.2 9.3 ± 0.7 19.8 ± 1.1


Live BSFL 0.9 ± 0.1 1.2 ± 0.2 4.3 ± 0.4 33.0 ± 1.0


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


<0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001


7


PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK


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