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Lara Rastello

Phd thesis

Project Title
Innovative feed ingredients in ruminant nutrition: digestibility, productive performance and animal-derived food products quality.

Scientific background

In the livestock industry, feed cost accounts for approximately 60-80% of the total production costs, with the protein sources being the most expensive feed ingredients (Uyeh et al., 2018). The use of insects-derived products as potential substitutes for conventional protein sources in animal nutrition has been successfully applied in monogastrics (Gasco et al., 2019).

Recently, insects have been tested for their potential use also in ruminants. Haryati et al. (2019) and Jayanegara et al. (2017) observed that the inclusion of insects in the diet can reduce CH4 and CO2 emissions by ruminants, lowering the environmental impact of livestock activities (Smetana et al., 2019). Similarly, agro-industrial by-products (ABP) resulting from fruit and vegetable processes are also considered as promising innovative feedstuffs for ruminants, thanks to their valuable content of bioactive compounds (e.g., polyphenols), able to modulate ruminal biohydrogenation pathways and greenhouse gas emissions (Correddu et al., 2020).

Successful outcomes deriving from the inclusion of ABP in ruminant diets on the quality of derived food products and on the reduction of the food-feed competition have been recently demonstrated (Campione et al., 2021; Renna et al., 2020).


  • Bring novel information on the use of insects-derived products and ABP by evaluating feed digestibility and derived products quality;
  • Assess the effects on rumen fermentation characteristics and on quantitative and qualitative performances of ruminant animals;
  • Perform sensorial analysis to better understand the consumers' perception.

Main Techniques

The study will provide new information on the suitability of insects-derived products in ruminant nutrition through the use of a multidisciplinary and well-rounded approach:

  • Chemical-nutritional and bromatological characterization of feed containing insects-derived products:
    • All the tested feedstuffs will be subjected to proximate (AOAC International, 2007) and fatty acid (FA) composition analysis (Renna et al., 2019).
  • The inclusion of insects-derived products in ruminant diets:
    • In vitro trials in which the rumen fluid is obtained from cannulated sheep and four series of 24-h incubations are performed using a batch technique. After 24h of incubation, analysis of FA profile, ammonia, volatile FA and gaseous end products are performed, and the in vitro organic matter disappearance is calculated.

    • In vivo trials in which dairy cows are selected by body weight, parity, days in milk, milk yield and quality, and are randomly allocated to two experimental groups and fed isonitrogenous and isoenergetic diets containing a conventional vegetal lipid source or insect oil. Feed intake and milk yield are recorded daily, and every 10 days milk samples are analyzed for their gross composition (Fourier Transform Infrared technology) and detailed FA profile. Rumen fluid is collected at the beginning and end of the trial and analyzed for its FA profile (to evaluate lipid biohydrogenation), fermentation end products (volatile FA and gases) and microbiota composition. Body weight is measured at the beginning and end of the trial to evaluate feed efficiency.
  • Studies on consumers' perception on insect-fed ruminant animals and their derived products.
    • Milk and derived butter from insect-fed animals are subjected to sensorial evaluation (affective tests with untrained assessors).

Expected results

It is expected that the defatted insect meals will decrease the total gas and CH4 production when compared to control feedstuffs and will result in higher digestibility performance if compared to full-fat insect meals. An improved milk quality is expected, particularly in terms of the FA profile, thanks to the presence of n-6 polyunsaturated FA in insect meals and polyphenols in ABP. The obtained results will lead to an increased utilization of innovative feed ingredients, leading to improved circular economy practices, i.e., decreased feed costs (for ABP) and CH4 emissions (for both insects-derived products and ABP) in livestock production.

Insect results may have a strong impact on the current legislation since, to date, they cannot be used in ruminant nutrition inside the Member States of the European Union.


AOAC International. (2007). Official methods of analysis. 18th ed. Gaithersburg (MD): Association of Official Analytical Chemists.

Campione A., Pauselli M., Natalello A., Valenti B., Pomente C., Avondo M., Luciano G., Caccamo M., Morbidini, L. (2021). Inclusion of cocoa by-product in the diet of dairy sheep: Effect on the fatty acid profile of ruminal content and on the composition of milk and cheese. Animal 15(6): 100243.

Correddu F., Lunesu M. F., Buffa G., Atzori A. S., Nudda A., Battacone G., Pulina G. (2020). Can agro-industrial by-products rich in polyphenols be advantageously used in the feeding and nutrition of dairy small ruminants? Animals 10(1): 131.

Gasco L., Biasato I., Dabbou S., Schiavone A., Gai F. (2019). Animals fed insect-based diets: state-of-the-art on digestibility, performance and product quality. Animals 9(4): 170.

Haryati R.P., Jayanegara A., Laconi E.B., Ridla M., Suptijah P. (2019). Evaluation of chitin and chitosan from insect as feed additives to mitigate ruminal methane emission. AIP Conference Proceedings. AIP Publishing LLC. 040008.

Jayanegara A., Yantina N., Novandri B., Laconi E.B., Nahrowi N., Ridla M. (2017). Evaluation of some insects as potential feed ingredients for ruminants: Chemical composition, in vitro rumen fermentation and methane emissions. Journal of Indonesian Tropical Animal Agriculture 42(4): 247-254.

Renna M., Lussiana C., Malfatto V., Gerbelle M., Turille G., Medana C., Ghirardello D., Mimosi A., Cornale P. (2020). Evaluating the suitability of hazelnut skin as a feed ingredient in the diet of dairy cows. Animals 10(9): 1653.

Renna M., Brugiapaglia A., Zanardi E., Destefanis G., Prandini A., Moschini M., Sigolo S., Lussiana C. (2019). Fatty acid profile, meat quality and flavour acceptability of beef from double-muscled Piemontese young bulls fed ground flaxseed. Italian Journal of Animal Science 18(1): 355-365.

Smetana S., Schmitt E., Mathys A. (2019). Sustainable use of Hermetia illucens insect biomass for feed and food: Attributional and consequential life cycle assessment. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 144: 285-296.

Uyeh D.D., Mallipeddi R., Pamulapati T., Park T., Kim J., Woo S., Ha Y. (2018). Interactive livestock feed ration optimization using evolutionary algorithms. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture 155: 1-11.


Research activities


Renna M., Rastello L., Veldkamp T., Toral P.G., Gonzalez-Ronquillo M., Jimenez L.E.R., Gasco, L. (2023). Are insects a solution for feeding ruminants? Legislation, scientific evidence, and future challenges. Animal Frontiers, 13(4): 102-111.

Renna M., Rastello L., Gasco L. (2022). Can insects be used in the nutrition of ruminants? Journal of Insects as Food and Feed 8(10): 1041-1045.

Rastello L., Renna M., Schettino-Bermúdez B., Gutiérrez-Tolentino R., Castelán Ortega O.A., Robles-Jimenez L.E., González Ronquillo M. (2023). Composición química en leche y queso de ovejas suplementadas con insectos (Notonectidae spp.). Proceeding of the Primer Congreso UAM: Calidad e Inocuidad de los alimentos, in press (abstract).

Renna M., Coppa M., Lussiana C., Le Morvan A., Gasco L., Rastello L., Maxin G. (2023). Defatted insect meals: impact on in vitro ruminal fermentation and lipid biohydrogenation. Proceeding of the 27th Congress of the 27th ESVCN Congress, in press (abstract).

Renna M., Coppa M., Lussiana C., Le Morvan A.,  Gasco L., Rastello L., Clayes J., Maxin G. (2023). Processing temperature of full-fat insect meals has limited effects on in vitro rumen fermentation characteristics. Proceeding of the 27th Congress of the 27th ESVCN Congress, in press (abstract).

Battaglini L.M., Miretti I., Giammarino M., Rastello L., Audisio A., Renna M. (2023). Effect of the feeding system on the growth performance of Holstein Friesian calves in the pre-weaning period. Proceedings of the 25th ASPA Congress, in press (abstract).

Renna M., Coppa M., Lussiana C., Le Morvan A., Rastello L., Gasco L., Maxin G. (2023). Rumen lipid biohydrogenation of insect meals: results of an in vitro study. Proceedings of the 25th ASPA Congress, in press (abstract).

Oral presentations:
"Defatted insect meals in ruminant nutrition: in vitro rumen fermentation characteristics and lipid biohydrogenation" in Game of Research 2nd Edition (December 2022).

Professional trainings:
1)Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Lombardia e dell'Emilia Romagna (IZSLER): LEGISLAZIONE NAZIONALE ED ETICA LIVELLO 1,
MODULI 1 E 2; DM 5 agosto 2021.


LABORATORIO, MODULI 3.1, 4, 5, 6.1, 7. DM 5 AGOSTO


Periods abroad:

France: under the supervision of Dr. Mathieu Silverberg at INRAE (institut de recherche public œuvrant pour un développement cohérent et durable de l'agriculture, l'alimentation et l'environnement) in Saint-Genès-Champanelle-Theix from 11/04/23 to 14/04/23.
Activity: Performing protozoal count in ruminal samples.

Spain: under the supervision of Dr. Pablo Gutiérrez Toral at IGM in Instituto de Ganadería de Montaña, León from 5/05/23 to 14/07/23.
Activity: Performing gas-chromatography activities for fatty acid analysis in ruminal samples.

Mexico: under the supervision of Dr. Manuel Gonzalez Ronquillo at Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, Toluca from 14/08/23 to "ongoing".
Activity: Performing in vivo and in vitro trials with different agro-industrial by-products and insect meals in ovine species.

Last update: 29/09/2023 07:40

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