However, when BSFL consumption was included in the calcu- lation, the total dry matter intake did not differ between treatments. The total energy intake and the energy and feed efficiency were also not affected by providing larvae. Those results indicate that live BSFL can be a substitute for part of the diet of piglets without hindering their perfor- mance. Previous studies have 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 provided, and ad libitum BSFL provi- sioning may have different effects. Directly after weaning, when solid feed intake is often low, ad libitum BSFL provision- ing could improve nutrient intake in this critical period. This in turn might support long-term good intestinal integrity and growth. When a substantial 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 (days 2, 5 and 8 after weaning), piglets that re- ceived BSFL spent less time exploring and manipulating pen fixtures and other piglets than the piglets that received wood shavings. The presence of BSFL 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 behaviours occurred despite the BSFL being present for only a short period twice a day. Also, the piglets in this experiment were housed under rela- tively good conditions, with bedding and a lot of space. In more barren commercial pens, which can lead to more wel- fare problems related to damaging behaviours, the provision of BSFL probably has even greater benefits for piglets. When confronted with an unknown environment containing an unknown object, piglets in the BSFL 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 BSFL creates positive associations with novelty in these piglets, making them more able to cope with unfamiliar situations. Such skills can be beneficial, as com- mercial 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 phas- es 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.


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

▶ PIG PROGRESS | Volume 37, No. 7, 2021 p

<0.001 <0.001 <0.001 <0.001



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