Cultivating insects is becoming a popular avenue for farmers worldwide. Livestock farmers, in particular, have been raising insects to feed their animals. It has become more acceptable due to the nutritional benefit and ease of reproducing insects. Perhaps the biggest incentive to get into insect cultivation is because of the urgent need to more sustainably feed livestock animals, especially with the soybean meal industry driving the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
The black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) is seen as an effective choice for insect farmers because its larval form contains 45% protein and 35% fat. Studies have shown the benefit of feeding black soldier fly larvae to chicken, pigs, and fish, but no prior research has been done on cattle.
This is why researchers from Texas State University have been studying the effect of this insect on the digestion of cattle. They surgically inserted a device called a cannula to analyze the cow’s rumens, which is the part of the cow’s cattle that converts hay and grass into energy. The surgery was performed by veterinarians, following strict protocols to ensure the cow’s safety.
The researchers conducted several trials to see the effect of feeding cattle with the black soldier fly larvae as a protein supplement. Since feeding cows with additional protein helped them digest more grass or hay, the researchers hypothesized that feeding cattle with black soldier fly larvae could achieve the same results.
The results of their study aligned with their assumptions, thus indicating the potential of the black soldier fly larvae as an alternative protein supplement for cattle.
To fully explore the potential of the black soldier fly, the researchers have also begun other studies on the use of the fat of larvae as a source of biodiesel and the effect of feeding black soldier fly larvae in reducing the methane emissions of cattle.