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Enhancing Growth Performance in Weaning Pigs with 6% Dried Mealworm Larvae Inclusion
Table of Contents
The utilization of dried mealworms as a dietary component has garnered significant attention in poultry nutrition, demonstrating positive effects on growth performance. However, there is a dearth of information regarding the use of insects as a protein source in swine diets, particularly for weaning pigs.
Weaning pigs typically face the challenge of adapting to feed ingredients with lower enzyme activity post-weaning. To mitigate the growth inhibition or elevated mortality rates resulting from weaning stress, it is essential to provide highly digestible components in post-weaning diets. Although animal-sourced protein is relatively expensive, it finds broader application in weaning pig diets compared to soybean meal or other plant-based ingredients. This study explores the benefits of incorporating mealworms as a dietary component, drawing from existing research on other insect larvae used in pig nutrition.
Dried Mealworms Improve Growth Performance:
Various studies have assessed the inclusion of insect larvae in pig diets, revealing promising outcomes. For instance, adding maggot meal to weaning pig diets increased weight gain by 3.5% and reduced production costs by 13.2% compared to diets containing fishmeal. Feeding silkworms to growing-fattening pigs increased daily weight gain by 23.6% and shortened the fattening period. In the case of stemmed yellow mealworm, supplementing pig diets with 6% concentrated mealworm protein exhibited linear improvements in weight and weight gain, even though full-fat mealworm larvae were used in current studies. This highlights the potential benefits of incorporating dry mealworms(Tenebrio molitor Larva) as a protein source for weaning pigs.
Dried Mealworms Enhance Digestibility:
The improved growth performance attributed to Tenebrio molitor Larvae inclusion can be explained by enhanced nutrient digestibility. Animal-based protein sources generally offer better digestibility due to their balanced amino acid composition. Dried mealworms contain a range of amino acids suitable for livestock, promoting effective utilization. The fat content in the mealworm larvae also reduces the need for soybean oil in pig diets. Plant-based fat sources typically offer better bioavailability than animal-derived fats in young pigs due to their higher proportion of unsaturated fatty acids. In addition, mealworm larvae exhibit higher fat digestibility compared to soybean meal.
Influence on Serum Parameters:
Serum parameters such as IGF-1 and BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) concentrations are indicative of animal nutritional status and have been used to predict trends in growth and nutrient digestibility. IGF-1, a growth hormone, plays a crucial role in controlling cardiovascular structure, function, and bone maturation. Current research suggests that supplementing dried mealworms stimulates IGF-1 secretion, positively affecting growth and feed efficiency. Elevated BUN levels indicate excess amino acid metabolism in the bloodstream, making it a valuable indicator of protein quality and amino acid utilization. In this study, an increase in Mealworm inclusion led to a linear reduction in BUN levels during the second and fifth weeks, suggesting improved nutrient digestion and nitrogen retention, resulting in better growth performance.
Chitin Content and Immune Response:
Chitin, a component of insect exoskeletons, may have a positive impact on immune function and animal immunity. The addition of 500 mg/kg of chitosan as a substitute for antibiotics in weaning pig diets has been recommended. Supplementing with 100 mg/kg of chito-oligosaccharides (chitosan derivatives) improved daily weight gain and ileal digestibility in broiler chickens. In the present study, dried mealworm larvae were found to contain 11.56 mg/g of chitosan, and diets with 6% mealworm larvae included 0.07% chitosan. However, supplementation with dried mealworms did not significantly affect blood IgG and IgA concentrations, which are indicative of the immune response.
Increasing the inclusion of dried mealworm larvae in weaning pig diets significantly improves body weight at the end of the first and second stages. This improvement can be attributed to the enhanced digestibility of nutrients. Furthermore, mealworm supplementation positively influences serum parameters like IGF-1 and BUN, resulting in improved growth and feed efficiency. The inclusion of mealworms in weaning pig diets can enhance nutrient digestibility and nitrogen retention.
Incorporating up to 6% mealworms (mealworm larvae) in weaning pig diets proves advantageous for enhancing growth performance. The addition of mealworm meal increases feed intake and nutrient digestibility without adverse effects on the immune response. Mealworm meal can serve as a valuable protein source in weaning pig diets.
The Impact of Mealworms on Swine Nutrition:
Adding mealworms to swine diets has the potential to improve swine nutrition. With the global demand for animal protein on the rise, traditional protein sources like soybean meal and fishmeal may face supply challenges and increasing costs. Insects, including mealworms, offer a sustainable and nutrient-rich alternative. Here, we explore the advantages of incorporating mealworms into swine nutrition and their potential contributions to the overall well-being of weaning pigs.
Enhanced Palatability and Feed Intake: The study found that increasing the quantity of mealworm larvae improved feed intake. This suggests that mealworms’ palatability made the feed more appealing, resulting in higher consumption by weaning piglets. This increased feed intake is crucial for achieving optimal growth rates and ensuring that weaning pigs receive essential nutrients for their development.
Sustainability and Environmental Friendliness: Using insects like mealworms in swine nutrition aligns with sustainable and eco-friendly practices. Insect farming efficiently utilizes resources, as mealworms can be raised on organic waste materials, offering a potential solution for waste reduction. Furthermore, insect farming has a lower environmental footprint in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and land use compared to traditional livestock farming.
Nutrient-Rich Protein Source: Mealworms are a highly nutritious protein source, containing essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. They serve as a valuable component in swine diets, meeting the nutritional requirements of weaning piglets during the critical post-weaning phase, promoting rapid growth and development.
Chitin and Gut Health: The chitin content in mealworms positively affects gut health in weaning pigs. Chitin acts as a prebiotic, supporting the growth of beneficial gut microorganisms. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for nutrient absorption and overall health. Including mealworms in swine diets can help promote gut health and potentially reduce the need for antibiotics.
Economic Advantages: The study reported reduced production costs when including mealworms in swine diets. Lower production costs can lead to more competitive pricing for pork products, benefiting both swine producers and consumers.
Emerging Markets: As research on using insects in swine nutrition expands, it creates opportunities for developing insect-based feed products. This emerging market can benefit farmers seeking innovative and sustainable approaches to enhance swine nutrition and raise healthy, high-quality pigs.
In conclusion, incorporating mealworms into weaning pig diets has the potential to enhance growth performance, improve nutrient digestibility, and positively influence serum parameters. Additionally, mealworms are a sustainable, nutrient-rich, and environmentally friendly protein source that can meet the growing demand for animal protein. Ongoing research in this field holds the promise of exciting advancements in swine nutrition through the inclusion of insects.
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