Broilers benefit from scavenging live black soldier fly larvae

An experiment was conducted in the Netherlands to investigate the effect of scattering black soldier fly larvae in the litter of broilers.


By facilitating natural behav- iour and activity, and by reducing leg health prob- lems, adding black soldier fly larvae to litter can benefit broiler welfare.


he rapid growth rate achieved in broilers has been identified as the cause of broiler lameness and im- paired broiler leg bone development. Furthermore, moisture and ammonia aggregate in the litter over

time, and broilers that spend a lot of time resting in this litter are more prone to develop contact dermatitis. Several studies have indicated that promoting activity from a young age onwards can improve leg bone development and even increase activity levels later in life. An additional benefit of increased activity can be that the litter tends to dry more easily when it is periodically mixed by, for example, scratch- ing. Therefore, early facilitation of activity in broilers may ben- efit broiler welfare, as well as the health and performance of the birds. A promising environmental enrichment method is scattering desired feed, such as insects, which are highly attractive to broilers.

The study In the study, 360 day-old male Ross 308 broiler chicks were assigned to 1 of 5 treatments. Broilers in the control treat- ment did not receive the fly larvae throughout the experi- ment. In the other treatments, the amount and frequency of black soldier fly larvae provided to the birds varied. Broilers received either 5% or 10% of their estimated daily dietary dry

matter intake as fly larvae (hereafter referred to as A5 and A10, respectively), provided either two or four times a day (F2 and F4, respectively) resulting in, apart from the control treat- ment, treatments A5F2, A5F4, A10F2 and A10F4. Broilers re- ceived the fly larvae at 08:00 and 14:00 for the F2 treatments and 08:00, 11:00, 14:00 and 17:00 for the F4 treatments. The larvae were scattered across the litter throughout the pen.

Results – increase in active behaviour All of the broilers that received black soldier fly larvae demon- strated a large increase in active behaviour and a significant increase was seen in time spent walking, standing idle, ground pecking and foraging, while time spent resting decreased compared to the control group. The largest amount of larvae provided at the highest frequen- cy – or 10% of the dietary dry matter provided four times a day – appeared most effective in promoting activity and re- ducing the occurrence of hock burn and lameness, while the final weight of these broilers was not significantly reduced compared to controls. Results suggest that the addition of live black soldier fly larvae strongly motivates broilers to engae in active behaviour, particularly foraging, until the end of the rearing period, despite the energetic costs. Apart from affect- ing broiler activity, the consumption of the fly larvae also in- fluenced broiler performance, even though by mimicking the nutritional value of the larvae in the feed a similar metabolisa- ble energy intake was achieved for all treatment groups. The relative consumption of the larvae was slightly higher than anticipated, which could have caused a slight imbalance in amino acid uptake, affecting broiler growth.

Improved broiler leg health In conclusion, this study showed a benefit to birds in terms of improved leg health and long-term elevated levels of forag- ing behaviour and general activity in broilers receiving black soldier fly larvae, and this effect was largest and most consist- ent for broilers receiving the the largest amount of the larvae at the highest frequency (10% of their dietary dry matter, four times a day).

▶ ALL ABOUT FEED | Volume 29, No. 1, 2021


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