On-farm insect breeding for poultry feed appears possible

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This was made clear in a webinar by the Dutch Poultry Expert Center (PEC) and the insect company Amusca BV on Tuesday 18th May. Amusca BV in is a developer of intelligent insect technology for the production of insect larvae on site worldwide. Walter Jansen, Director of Amusca, has been developing insect breeding for use at the poultry farm level for 12 years.

Test setup: Insect Experience Center

The Aeres School in Barneveld, the Netherlands, and PEC see opportunities to feed poultry insects. Both want to explore the possibilities of insects in poultry feed and in insect breeding and share knowledge (internationally). For this reason Barneveld installed a breeding unit for fly larvae from Amusca BV at the end of last year.

A harvest of 3,500 kilos of larvae after 3 days

The Amusca HF larvae breeding unit consists of 2 sea containers in which flies grow from egg to larva / pupa. The unit contains 6 million flies that lay 151 million eggs in 24 hours. Here the larvae hatch after 8 hours. After 3 days, 3,500 kilos of larvae can be harvested for animal feed. About 15 kg of the larvae develop into pupae and fly for the next cycle.

One breeding unit for 100,000 chickens

The larvae grow on products that are not used for human or animal nutrition, such as beet pulp, wheat or corn yeast concentrate, leftover food from supermarkets and slaughter by-products. The heat generated by the larvae is used to heat the fly cage. According to Amusca director Jansen, one breeding unit is enough to breed larvae for around 100,000 chickens. The test unit will be put into operation in the coming weeks.

Protein transition

Insects can be an alternative to soy protein in poultry feed and help reduce soy imports. According to Eltjo Bethlehem, Business Manager at PEC, insects can be an important step in the protein transition and towards more regional food production. It also reduces the carbon footprint.

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Greater well-being and animal health in larvae

Insects can be fed to poultry in two ways:

  1. live (larvae mixed in the chickens feed line),
  2. dead (as a meal, added to the compound feed in the feed factory)

According to the literature, insect protein helps improve intestinal health, said WUR researcher Teun Veldkamp. Feeding live larvae contributes to the search behavior and thus to the well-being of the chicken.

More research on insect feeding poultry is needed

Much research remains to be done on how to feed poultry insects in order to use it successfully. For example, how chickens digest insects. This requires digestive research with insect meal, says Laura Star, poultry nutrition researcher at Schothorst Feed Research. Then feed manufacturers can include it in their feed compositions. It is important that the quality of the insects is constant. According to Star, insects can replace 10-15% of the raw materials in poultry feed.

When it comes to research, according to Teun Veldkamp, ​​there is still a lot to discover in the substrate on which the insects grow in order to influence the fatty acid composition of the insects.

The entomologist Leo Beukeboom believes that the composition of insects can be influenced by using breeding techniques. He believes there is much to be gained economically by changing the gender balance between men and women. After all, only the females lay eggs, from which the larvae grow.

Amusca director Jansen’s ideal is to let insects grow on manure. However, this is not (yet) permitted. “I can turn all that crap into insect protein.”