Providing live black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens) improves welfare while maintaining performance of piglets post-weaning

Ipema, Allyson F.; Bokkers, Eddie A.M.; Gerrits, Walter J.J.; Kemp, Bas; Bolhuis, J.E.


During weaning, piglets experience concurrent social, physical, and nutritional stressors. Consequently, piglets often have poor feed intake and display increased oral manipulative behaviours post-weaning, indicative of compromised welfare. Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) possess many attractive properties for pigs and could therefore function as effective edible enrichment, potentially alleviating weaning stress by facilitating exploration and promoting feed intake. In this study, pairs of piglets received a small amount of either live BSFL or wood shavings (8 pens/treatment) scattered throughout the pen twice a day for 11 days after weaning. Home-pen behaviour was scored by instantaneous scan sampling on day 2, 5 and 8, and behavioural responses to a novel environment and novel object were scored on day 10/11. Performance-related parameters were observed regularly. Larvae provisioning increased floor-directed exploration and decreased object-directed exploration, pig-directed oral manipulation, fighting and eating of pellets, and reduced neophobia towards a novel object. Pellet intake was significantly decreased by BSFL provisioning during day 4–11 post-weaning, although feed and net energy intake including BSFL never differed between treatments. BSFL provisioning did not influence piglet growth, feed efficiency, energy efficiency, and faecal consistency. To conclude, live BSFL provisioning positively affected post-weaning piglet behaviour while maintaining performance.