Provision of black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens) in different ways benefits broiler welfare and performance, with largest effects of scattering live larvae

Ipema, A.F.; Bokkers, Eddy; Gerrits, W.J.J.; Kemp, B.; Bolhuis, J.E.


Including black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) in broiler diets has the potential to benefit broiler welfare and increase production performance, but the effects of dietary BSFL likely depend on the way BSFL are provided. In this study we aimed to discern the effects of different BSFL forms and provisioning methods by providing male broilers with no BSFL (CON), processed BSFL meal and oil incorporated in the feed pellets (INC-F), dried BSFL in the feeder on top of the feed (D-F), or dried or live BSFL scattered through the pen (D-S and L-S, respectively), and evaluating various indicators of broiler welfare and production performance. In all dietary BSFL treatments 8% of the total dietary dry matter content was replaced with BSFL. Dried and live larvae were provided in four equal daily portions at 08:00, 11:00, 14:00, and 17:00. Compared to a diet without BSFL, scattering dried or live larvae through the pen increased active behaviors, though only live larvae increased the time broilers spent standing. Broilers in the D-F, D-S and L-S treatments had higher average daily body weight gain during some periods, and they had higher final weights, despite L-S broilers having a lower total dry matter intake than CON broilers. Furthermore, the dry matter conversion ratio of INC-F, D-S and L-S broilers was reduced. At the end of the rearing period, pens in all dietary BSFL treatments had better litter quality than CON pens. Furthermore, food pad dermatitis was less severe for INC-F and D-S broilers than for CON broilers, and for L-S broilers than for broilers in all other treatments, and hock burn severity was less for L-S than for CON broilers. Broiler lameness, cleanliness, plasma natural antibody titers, and whole blood serotonin were not influenced by dietary BSFL treatment. Feather corticosterone concentrations were affected by treatment, though without any significant post-hoc differences. Our results indicate that BSFL meal and oil, and dried and live BSFL are all promising feed ingredients for broilers as they all benefit some aspects of broiler welfare and production performance. Scattering BSFL through the pen results in more welfare benefits than providing BSFL in the feeder, with live BSFL having the most beneficial effects on broiler welfare.