Producers are being urged to keep a close eye on feed conversion efficiency this winter, with just a 0.1 change affecting milk yields by as much as two litres per cow per day.
Alltech’s Louise Clarke says that many herds are not achieving the minimum target for feed conversion efficiency (FCE) of 1.5. “And this is contributing to an overall under-utilisation of feed inputs and, ultimately, lost profitability.
She adds that the recent Alltech feed waste reduction and utilisation on-farm pilot study showed a wide variation in FCE across UK dairy units.
“The average FCE was 1.2, while some high performing herds were reaching 1.7. It’s important to note that 1.7 is the maximum to aim for because beyond this cows could start milking off their backs.”
Miss Clarke points out that many producers fail to routinely measure FCE and could be unaware of the impact that it may be having on business profitability.
“It can be easily calculated by dividing the average litres per cow per day, corrected to 4.0% fat and 3.2% protein, by the total dry matter fed. This shows the kilogrammes of milk produced per kilogramme of dry matter fed.”
She says that putting a monetary value against key sources of feed waste and underutilisation is important to support on-farm improvements, and this is something that Alltech’s new Navigate service has set out to achieve.
“The assessment provides quantitative measures that help producers to identify key areas where improvements can be made,” explains Miss Clarke.
“It assesses the whole feed process – from the field through to the cow – and FCE has been identified as an area that offers a high potential for gains, with savings of up to £113 per cow per year achievable.”
Many factors can influence FCE, including ration balance and presentation and consistency, as well as the environment. Heath and fertility are also key parameters that determine how well a cow utilises feed.