World’s first commercial piglet feed with insect oil

26-09-2016 | |
Photo: Emmy Koeleman
Photo: Emmy Koeleman

A Dutch feed company is the world’s first to put a feed product on the market with insect oil. The weaner feed with the insect ingredient has a lot of potential to reduce bacteria, prevent diarrhoea and improve feed intake; the key components to have a smooth transition from piglet to grower.

Coppens Animal Feed and Protix are very proud of the fact that their cooperation has led to a scoop: a feed formulation with insect oil, suitable for weaner pigs. Protix is producer of insect oil and insect protein and supplies the ingredient to Coppens, who further processes it to a commercial pelleted feed in their feed mill in Helmond, the Netherlands.

Going back to ‘old’ ingredients

For Coppens, sustainability, a circular economy and innovation are important values, hence the interest in new feed ingredients such as insect oil. Ad Kemps, innovation and project manager at Coppens explains: “Topics such as antibiotic reduction, environmental issues (e.g. re-using waste streams) and animal welfare are part of the food chain and as the animal feed sector we need to act on these important issues. Regarding animal nutrition, we see that farmers are very interested in ‘going back to nature’, and supply a diet that partly resembles a primal diet. What do animals need and which new ingredients can we add or use as a replacement for less sustainable ingredients? This is what we as Coppens are looking at and we have noticed from the feedback from farmers that they find it logical to feed insects to livestock, as this is a natural, primal part of the diet”.

Insect oil contains high level of lauric acid

Tarique Arsiwalla, founder of Protix explains: “We have started our cooperation with Coppens around 3 years ago and this has successfully led into the launch of a commercial product in the market. The first batch of piglet feed with the insect oil left the feed mill of Coppens earlier this year, and since then around 15 pig farmers in the Netherlands have started using it for their weaners. The insect oil is made from the larvae from the Black Soldier Fly and Protix has fine-tuned the art of breeding, production and processing of these insects since its foundation in 2009”. Compared to other farmed insect species, Black Soldier Flies might be the hardest one to breed, but they are very efficient in converting organic leftover streams into valuable protein and oil. The insect oil contains a high percentage of lauric acid, known for its antimicrobial properties and a tool to get gram negative bacteria (such as Streptococcus or Clostridium) under control. In addition, lauric acid has a fast and slow release, which means it is released throughout the whole intestinal gut.

Piglet trials show higher feed intake

Before going to market, Coppens has carried out several trials to test the new feed formulation with the insect oil. Farmers welcome the idea of sustainable pig diets, but in the end, the facts that show that production and health can be improved are needed to win the farmers over to actually buy the feed. Pig nutritionist at Coppens, Joris van Iersel, is closely involved in these trials and explains: “The first trial results (at a client’s farm) show that piglets on the insect oil diet had a 12% higher feed intake, compared to the control diet (Figure 1). This was measured between the age of weaning (21 days) and 14 days post weaning. Van Iersel: “The higher feed intake leads to fuller stomachs, hence leading to better gut health and less diarrhoea incidence. Although growth was similar, and thus feed conversion, the higher feed intake is what is most important. In addition, as weaning is such as sensitive period, large variation in feed intake should be avoided and the piglets should be fed with ingredients that are easy to digest”. Another recent trial which has been done at Coppens Piglet Research Centre were the insect oil diet was fed for a longer period (up to 42 days after weaning at 28 days, Figure 2).

The full interview with Coppens and Protix can be read in the upcoming issue (number 8) of All About Feed!

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Emmy Koeleman Freelance editor