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Optimal inclusion level of termite meal replacing fish meal in broiler diets

B Mali, S Okello, M Ocaido and A S Nalule

College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity, Makerere University. PO Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda


The purpose of this study was to evaluate termites as a potential feed resource for poultry. Harvested Macrotermes bellicosus termites and rastrineobola argentia fish species were processed and used for formulation of poultry feed. Experimental diets labelled FM, TM and FM-TM were formulated as follows: FM contained 100% fish meal and served as the control. FM-TM contained 50% fish and termite meal while TM comprised 100% termite meal. The crude protein level was maintained at 20% for all experimental diets. Three groups, each containing 39 day old broiler chicks divided in triplicates of 13, were fed on these diets for 8 weeks. Analysis of variance was used to determine significant differences in weight accrued by the birds throughout the study. Polynomial contrasts and broken line analysis was used to determine the inclusion level that produces the most desired effect in terms of weight gain. Broilers fed on FM-TM comprising 50% termite-based meals, performed better than those fed on TM and FM, comprising 100% termite and fish meal respectively. The Optimal inclusion level of termite meal in fish based diets for maximum broiler productivity was 40%. For production efficiency, feed comprising inclusion levels between 40-50% termite meals should be utilized in combination with fish meal.

Key words: macrotermes bellicosus, protein, rastrineobola argentia


The relatively low price in comparison to other livestock species, coupled with genetic improvement through enhancement of feed conversion ratio that shortens growth period, makes chicken an ideal source of animal protein, to address food shortages due to the rapidly increasing world population, that results in malnutrition especially in developing countries (Coleman and Korver 2004; Das et al 2009). Fast growing broilers need sufficient nutrient for body maintenance and optimum productivity which involves growth of all body components. The birds in essence require adequate dietary protein in order to attain an increase in carcass muscle and reduction in fat hence producing lean meat. This requires formulation of diets that enhance protein accretion while diminishing fat deposition in order to exhaustively exploit the genetic potential of broiler chicken (Rostagno et al 2005). Achievement of this necessitates use of feed with dry matter that comprises a large percentage of highly digestible crude protein. Currently fish meal, processed animal protein and soy bean meal dominate as the major sources of protein for poultry feed. While use of processed animal protein is prohibited especially in Europe by Transmissible Spongioform Encephalopathies (TSE) legislation, over exploitation of aquatic sources has drastically reduced the abundance of fish, while land available for cultivation of soy has decreased due to the ever expanding human population (Veldkamp et al 2012). Demand exceeding availability of these ingredients (Ojewola et al 2005) has led to a drastic increase in prices of animal feed which already constitutes 70% of costs required to produce poultry products (Mupeta et al 2003; Teguia and Beynen 2005). The resultant high costs of fish meal have been met with a drive to find alternatives that provide poultry with a similar plane of nutrition as fish. Insects have been fronted as an immediate alternative source. This is due to their ubiquitous presence, high nutritional value and wide acceptance as a feed resource for both livestock and people in several countries all over the world (Melo et al 2011; Moreki et al 2012). Alternative insects under investigation are termites which have a large percentage of highly digestible crude protein. The worker and soldier castes often consumed by scavenging poultry do possess 25% and 54% crude protein with digestibility of 82% and 81% respectively (Magothe et al 2012; Ntukuyoh et al 2012; Ajayi 2012). When experimentally fed to fish, diet formulations containing 50% inclusion levels of both termite and fish meal proved to be the best option for profitable and sustainable aquaculture (Sogbesan and Ugumbwa, 2008). The biological predator-prey relationship of birds and termites and the all year round presence of soldier and worker castes, has enabled rural communities exploit the resource and provide their poultry with cheap protein (Akutse et al 2012), making termites a readily available resource and a potential substitute for fishmeal. However, insect use in the livestock industry is only limited to free range poultry farming and only makes up 2% of the feed resources regularly utilized in this enterprise (Zhuidhof et al 2003).


Harvested macrotermes bellicosus termite and rastrineobola argentia fish species were processed using termite preservation techniques similar to those of Indigenous communities in Uganda (Mali B et al 2018). Processing involved boiling at 100 ºC for 5 minutes and dehydration at 80ºC for 6 hours. This was followed by milling, weighing and use in formulation of poultry feed. Experimental diets labelled FM, TM and FM-TM were formulated as shown in Table 1. FM contained 100% fish meal and served as the control. TM and FM-TM comprised 100% and 50 % termite meal respectively (Sogbesan and Ugwumba 2008). The crude protein level was maintained at 20% for all experimental diets. Three groups, each containing 39 day old broiler chicks divided in triplicates of 13, were fed on these diets for 8 weeks. The birds were housed in a deep litter system and vaccinated against New castle and Infectious bursal disease. Weekly weighing of birds using an electronic scale was carried out and the bird’s weight was recorded.

Data collection and statistical analysis for production efficiency involved use of nutrient utilization indices which included: Mean feed intake, mean weight gain and feed conversion ratio. Analysis of variance was used to determine significant differences in mean live weight accrued by the birds throughout the study. Linear regression analysis was used to determine the relationship between Mean weight gain and inclusion level of termite meal. Polynomial contrasts and broken line analysis, was used to determine the inclusion level that produces the most desired effect in terms of weight gain.


Flock production evaluation

During the study, cases of mortality recorded were 1, 2 and 5 birds in groups 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Production evaluation therefore was done based on equal number of birds from the surviving flock, which included 34 broilers from each group. By the end of the study, the flock in FM, TM and FM-TM attained an average live weight of 1.92 ± 0.021kg, 1.77 ± 0.023kg and 2.037 ± 0.0272kg respectively. The production indices for each of the groups attained by the end of the study are as shown in Table 2.

Table 1. Broiler diet compositions (g/100g of feed) with different inclusions of termite meal


FM (control)







Termite meal




Fish meal




Vitamin/mineral premix




Common salt (%)








Calculated crude protein (%)




Diet included vitamin/mineral premix contained: 7,000,000 I.U of vitamin A, 2,000,000 I.U of Vitamin FM-TM, 10,000mg of Vitamin E, 200mg of Vitamin K3, 300mg of Vitamin B1, 800mg of vitamin B2, 400 mg of vitamin B6, 2 mg of vitamin B12, 3000 mg of Niacin, 1000 mg Pantothenic Acid, 100 mg of folic acid, 75 mg of Biotin, 35,000mg of choline, 6000mg of Manganese, 4000mg of iron, 500mg of zinc, 800mg of copper, 75mg of cobalt, 100mg of iodine, 20mg of 1% selenium, 20,000mg of antioxidant, 50,000mg of 12%salinomycin, 17,000mg of ronozyme P 5000, 12000mg of roxazyme G2, 2500mg of Carophyl Yellow, 500mg of carophyll red

Table 2. Production indices of birds at 8 weeks







Feed intake (kg)






Weight gain (kg)






Feed conversion






a b c Mean values in the same row without common superscripts differ at p<0.05

Figure 1. Effect of termite meal replacing fish
meal on feed intake of broilers
Figure 2. Effect of termite meal replacing fish
meal on weight gain of broilers

Figure 3. Effect of termite meal replacing fish
meal on feed conversion of broilers

From the third till eighth week, TM birds were less vibrant than the other groups often perching most of the time, and preferring to move when going to feed and drink water. This flock consumed 1.1 times the amount of water utilized by FM and FM-TM. Post hoc analysis revealed that the mean live weight of the FM flock within the third week, was not greater (p = 0.695) than that of FM-TM. The mean live weight amongst the flock was greatest in FM-TM (p <0.05), from the fourth week to the end of the study. The effects of fish meal replacement with termite meal on feed intake, weight gain and feed conversion are as shown in figure 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Using linear regression, the coefficient of determination of mean weight gain vs termite inclusion level was R2= 0.31.


Evaluation of the potential of feed was based on flock that survived and completed the production cycle. These birds gave a true picture of nutrient utilization and weight parameters which were the production outputs on which this study was centred. Bird weight was considered as a measure of output which commercially, is the determinant of the price at which a bird is sold (Mendes et al 2013). Cases of mortality were not included when calculating production efficiency because the incidences of death were probably not related to consumption of feed. However survivability was considered because flock resilience could be attributed to the plane of nutrition that the birds received (Kogut 2009).

The inactive behaviour exhibited by TM flock could be due to excessive amounts of anti-nutritional factors in the diet comprising 100% termite meal. Termites do comprise low concentrations of oxalates, phytate and hydrocyanic acid (Ntukuyoh et al 2012) which might not have any effect on motility when ingested in low doses. However compounding commercial feeds with 100% termite meal as the protein ingredient could increase the concentration of these anti-nutritional factors in the feed, to levels that could have negative effect on performance of birds, following cumulative ingestion. High concentrations of phytic acid as shown in some studies could lead to osteomalacia and rickets due to interference of manganese, iron and calcium utilization (Widowson 2002). The negative effects of oxalic acid may not have been realized because during processing, oxalates are usually destroyed by heat (Ekop and Eddy 2007). The FM-TM flock, where 50% inclusion of termite meal was used, were active throughout the study. Probably in this scenario, the concentration of the anti-nutritional factors was not substantial to have a negative effect on performance of the birds.

Significant changes in mean weight attained every week in all three groups, shows the potential of all the meals to achieve weight gain. The initial highest average weight attained by FM flock within the second and third week could probably be due to the high protein efficiency of 100% fish meal diet in comparison to the 50% and 100% termite meal diets. High protein efficiency is crucial in meat production maximization, with minimal intake of amino acids (Sleman et al 2015). However, probably due to the better feed conversion ratio as a result of consumption of 50% termite meal, The FM-TM flock were able to attain average weights higher than FM and TM from the fourth up to the eighth week. Cumulative daily weight gains do contribute to optimum weight gain attained by birds (Butcher and Nilipour 2015). As much as protein efficiency is important, the results of this study do show that the diet that potentiates the greatest feed conversion ratio probably results in higher production efficiency, hence weight gain. Some studies have shown that the synergistic effects created as a result of combining two compounds were usually greater than the effects produced when each of the compounds was used separately (Sogbesan and Ugwumba 2006). This could be the reason for the highest weight gain attained by the FM-TM flock in comparison to FM and TM. On the other hand, the coefficient of determination R2= 0.31, obtained suggests minimal relationship between termite inclusion level in broiler diet and weight gain. This ascertains that nutrient quality rather than inclusion level affected mean weight gain. While termite and fish amino acid complementation could have led to highest weight gain in a 50% inclusion level, lower amino acid quality or anti-nutritional factor presence in termites, could have led to impediment in growth of the TM flock, with 100% inclusion of termite meal, leading to attainment of the lowest mean weight gain.



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