Insect-based feeds can cheaply replace fishmeal without affecting birds’ ability to grow, suggests new research from East Africa.

A research team from the International Center for Entomology in Nairobi and Kenyatta University in Kenya evaluated the growth performance of improved indigenous chickens. Birds were fed diets containing various levels of black sandfly larvae (BSFL).

They did so in relation to poultry products, which will account for about 45% of the animal protein needs over the next decade, according to the OECD. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the consumption of poultry products continues to grow faster than other meat products due to rapid population growth and rising purchasing power. About 80% of rural households in developing countries have poultry, most of which have IIC birds.

However, IIC production is characterized by low productivity and faces the challenge of high cost of compound feed, which accounts for 70% of the total production cost.

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Sixty-three birds in each experimental unit were randomly assigned to one of five diets. During the starter phase, each was given an experimental starter diet for eight weeks. Then from 9 weeks each was fed grower’s diet for 18 weeks.

Feed consumption, weight gain, and survival were monitored across studies using cost-benefit analyses, and return on investment was used to assess the economic impact of replacing fishmeal in chicken diets with BSFL meal.

The results showed that diet significantly affected the average daily feed intake, feed conversion ratio and average daily weight gain of the chicks. The gross profit margin, cost-benefit ratio and return on investment of feeding birds with BSFL meal varied significantly, demonstrating that insect-based feeds can successfully and cost-effectively replace fish meal up to 20% without compromising the growth performance of the birds.

Therefore, the authors say, BSFL meal could be incorporated as an essential part of poultry feed production for IIC, potentially reducing the total feed cost while maintaining optimal production and reducing the cost of meat and egg products.

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