With feed costs such a large proportion of variable and total costs on a dairy farm, it is important to measure the efficiency with which feed is converted into milk.
Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE) is a key measure of feeding system efficiency on a dairy farm, impacting on feed cost/unit of milk and milk operating profit.
FCE is also an important factor impacting on a farm’s greenhouse gas emissions.
FCE should always be used in conjunction with other farm physical performance measures, and financial performance measures such as annual milk operating profit and return on assets.
FCE is expressed in terms of the amount of milk produced per kilogram of feed given to your herd. FCE can be measured for the milking herd on an annual basis, or seasonally within each year.
Targets for the five main feeding systems
Grains2Milk recommends a series of achievable annual FCE targets for milking cows for the 5 different feeding systems, expressed in terms of grams of milk solids or kilograms milk per kilogram of feed dry matter:
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These targets are achievable in well-managed systems, with minimal wastage, good quality feed, minimal feed gaps and good rumen function throughout the year.
Higher FCE’s are possible using feeding systems 3, 4 and 5 because they enable higher daily feed intakes to be achieved, provide greater control over feed quality and feed wastage, and allow a more stable and efficient rumen to be maintained.
Higher FCE’s using feeding systems 3, 4 and 5 systems are essential, given the higher capital and operating costs associated with them.
Measuring FCE on your farm
The ‘Pasture Consumption and Feed Conversion Efficiency Calculator’ developed by DPI Victoria with support from Dairy Australia provides the Australian dairy industry with a robust, scientifically sound method for calculating annual pasture removal and milker feed conversion efficiency (FCE) on your farm.
Strategies to optimise FCE
Generalaims to optimise FCEacross all five main feeding systems are:
● Optimise total daily feed intake;
● Maintain high feed quality;
● Maintain good rumen function;
● Minimise feed gaps throughout the year;
● Minimise feed wastage; and
● Minimise energy losses
- Steve Little, Grains2Milk program leader for Dairy Australia