Meal Worm and Black Soldier Fly Larvae as Novel Protein Sources for Cattle Consuming Forage




Carrasco, Mikael

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The global population is projected to increase, indicating there will be greater demand for animal protein to meet the associated food needs. This demand will place additional pressure on livestock systems to increase output while also minimizing natural resource inputs. Insect protein has emerged as a potential environmentally sustainable alternative to conventional protein feeds, such as soybean meal. Further, insect protein does not compete in the human food sector as products of conventional oil crops often do. Mealworm larvae (MWL) has been studied in poultry and swine as an alternative protein feed; however, there is no current research evaluating MWL for cattle. Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) has also received attention for its potential use in livestock feed due to its scalability and nutritional value, but research in cattle is limited. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of whole dried MWL and defatted BSFL as protein supplements for cattle consuming forage. These procedures were approved by the Institutional Animal Care Use Committee (IACUC) at Texas State University (#7726). Five ruminally cannulated steers were utilized in a 5×5 Latin square experiment to determine how MWL and BSFL supplementation affect forage utilization. Steers consuming low-quality forage (4.2% crude protein, CP) were provided one of five treatments each period: 1) control with no supplement (CON), 2) soybean meal (CONV), 3) BSFL, 4) MWL, and a 5) 50% BSFL and 50% MWL by-weight (MIX). Supplements were provided at 100 mg N/kg BW. Periods included 8-d for treatment adaptation, 5-d for intake and digestion measurements, and 1-d for ruminal fermentation measures. Dry matter (DM), organic matter (OM), CP, neutral detergent fiber (NDF), and acid detergent fiber (ADF) were determined for diet, ort, and feces. Protein supplementation stimulated forage OM intake (FOMI; P≤0.01) relative to CON. There was a significant difference in FOMI (P≤0.01) between BSFL and CONV. Steers receiving CONV treatment consumed 4.71 kg FOMI/d, which was significantly greater (P≤0.01) than those receiving BSFL (4.30 kg/d). There were no differences in FOMI between other treatment groups. Total digestible OM intake (TDOMI) was stimulated by protein supplementation (P≤0.01) from 1.94 kg/d for CON to an average of 3.24 kg/d across protein supplements. Organic matter digestibility (OMD) and neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD) were not affected by treatment (P=0.55) for an average OMD of 66.5% and NDFD of 62.7%. There was also not a treatment effect (P=0.96) on total volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentrations, although there were some shifts in molar proportions of individual VFAs across treatments. These data indicate that MWL may be more efficacious than BSFL in stimulating forage utilization in beef cattle, but both are viable protein supplements.



BSFL, MWL, beef cattle


Carrasco, M. (2023). Meal worm and black soldier fly larvae as novel protein sources for cattle consuming forage (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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