Insects are receiving great attention as a potential source of protein and or other functional compounds for poultry. The objective of this study was to evaluate the dose response of commercial black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae meal (BSFLM) on growth performance and tibia ash in broiler chickens fed a corn and soybean meal diet. A 35-day trial was conducted using 480 d old male Ross x Ross 708 chicks placed in metabolic cages (10 chicks per cage) and allocated to six experimental diets (n=6). The diets were: a corn-soybean meal (C- SBM) based diet with bacitracin methylene disalicylate (BMD) to mimic industry practices, C-SBM without BMD, and C-SBM with replacement of the SBM by BSFLM at an inclusion level of 12.5% (25-32% SBM), 25% (20-26% SBM), 50% (10-13% SBM), and 75% (0% SBM). All diets were prepared in mash form and delivered in a three phase program: starter (d 0-14), grower (d 14-28) and finisher (d 28-35). Body weight (BW), feed intake and mortality were monitored at each phase for calculation of BW gain and feed conversion ratio (FCR) while tibias were collected on d- 35. A one-way ANOVA with treatments as fixed effects was run to evaluate the four inclusion levels of BSFLM on growth performance and tibia of broilers, and compare with birds raised with BMD (RwithAb) and without BMD (RwithoutAb). Statistical significance was set at a P-value ≤ 0.05. The 12.5% BSFLM and 25% BSFLM had a comparable effect with the RwithAb on d-14 BW of the birds (P <0.0001). A similar effect was noted for the BW gain at d-14 (P <0.0001). FCR was lower (P = 0.0161) in the RwithAb but the 12.5% BSFLM had a better feed efficiency than the RwithoutAb. There was no difference between treatments for the tibia dry matter and the percentage of tibia weight (P = 0.5875). Similarly, there was no significant difference between 12.5% BSFLM and the RwithAb for the tibia ash and percentage weight (P = 0.1412).
In conclusion, this study demonstrated that feed supplementation with BSFLM at 12.5%, could induce beneficial effects on performance comparable to those of bacitracin during the starter period. Future work investigating lower inclusion rates are warranted as higher BSFLM levels beyond 12.5% appears to have negative effects on bird growth performance.