Livestock farmers substitute commercial feeds for houseflies

Houseflies are now emerging as cheap alternative feed for livestock providing almost the same amount of edible protein as common protein rich commercial feeds like fish meal whose prices have skyrocketed beyond the reach of many small holder farmers. This could come as a welcome relief to millions of farmers in Kenya who have borne the brunt of increased feed price which have short up four fold in the last three years, as feed manufacturers decry inadequate materials.

Now scientists who have tried and tested the use of houseflies scientifically known as Musca domestica, say the readily available houseflies could be the answer to a growing global population which is now competing with livestock for the same raw feeding manufacturing products like maize and soybean.

Fly breeding entrepreneur Jason Drew while launching his book recently dubbed The Story of the Fly and How it Could Save the World said using flies as animal feeds would be particularly important to developing nations as a rise in population pressure exerts pressure on the otherwise limited land “since insect raising or gathering can be done without major cash investments and doesnt require big land.” There is also economic potential for those who would venture into fly breeding as the world looks into commercial farming of flies for livestock feed.

“Commercially bred flies can live on slaughterhouse or distillery waste, rather than on foods that could be processed and sold to humans, which also makes them environmentally sound,” he further said. With the help of his brother, he has started breeding M. domestica flies to use in fish farms in their Cape Town business, AgriProtein. It has taken five years to develop the larvae farming process. Around one million flies are kept in a cage of about 100 cubic metres producing about 1,000 eggs each.  

The larvae are hatched and harvested within 17 days, which is how long they live before they turn into flies. They are then dried, flaked and sold as meal. Last month, the company produced 100 tonnes of wet larvae and 24.5 tonnes of feed. AgriProtein is one of the first companies to produce high quantities of fly meal for commercial use, said Paul Vantomme, senior forestry officer for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, in Rome.

This groundbreaking phenomenon has come at a time when Kenyan scientists are actively involved in using the traditional ignored and loathed insect as an alternative to address food shortage and climate change. Already Prof Monica Ayieko, a scientist and lecturer at Maseno University has successfully conducted a survey that shows that termites and may flies should be adopted as a delicacy in Kenyan homes and could be a solution to the the fragile food security situation in the country now affecting over 4 million people.