How to measure Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE)
Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE) is a term commonly used in the dairy industry to determine how efficiently cows are converting their diet into milk. Put simply, it’s a measure of how many kilos of milk are produced by the cow from each kilo of dry matter eaten.
Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE) is a term commonly used in the dairy industry to determine how efficiently cows are converting their diet into milk. Put simply, it’s a measure of how many kilos of milk are produced by the cow from each kilo of dry matter eaten. Regular monitoring of this figure within a herd can show some valuable signs of how well your feeds and forages are being utilised by the cows and if a change in the ration being fed has disturbed the overall balance of the diet. (DairyCo, Feeding+)
FCE = Milk Yield ÷ Dry Matter Intake (DMI)
30 kgs of milk from 22 kgs of DMI
FCE = 30/22
FCE = 1.36
The below table shows that 1.36 is within the target region for a DMI of 22 kgs but there is room for improvement.
Source: Biotal Ltd
Factors that influence FCE
Forages: Forages have the greatest effect on FCE since they make up a large component of the slowly digestible part of the diet of lactating cows and they can be variable in terms of nutrient composition. Every effort should be made during the harvest, preservation and feeding of forages to achieve the highest quality possible.
Another way that forages can influence FCE is by maintaining a desirable rumen environment. Acidosis (low rumen pH) can negatively affect FCE by decreasing fiber digestibility through changes in the rumen microbial population. Having enough physically effective forage fiber (scratch) in the ration will maintain the desirable rumen microbes by stimulating cudding, increasing saliva production and improving the buffering capacity of the rumen.
Stage of lactation: Days in Milk (DIM) will have an influence on FCE because cows in early lactation will be losing body weight and using that energy for milk production. This will artificially increase FCE and it is for this very reason overly high FCE figures should be investigated.
Maintenance requirements: Changes in the maintenance requirements of lactating cows will affect how much of their energy intake they can devote to milk production. E.g. a cow grazing pasture will have to utilize more energy walking around to consume feed than a housed cow.
Lactation number: Feed efficiency is affected by lactation number because cows in their first lactation are still growing, and a portion of their energy intake is used to support that growth.
Cow comfort: An increase in stress will generally lead to an increase in energy required for maintenance and therefore reduce FCE. Factors that can cause cows stress include overcrowding, disease, excessive heat and cold, etc.
Feed additives: Over 60 published international research papers confirm that feeding a rumen specific live yeast, such as that found in Biotal SC Gold will significantly increase FCE and milk yield. More recent evidence also confirms dry cows fed the same strain of live yeast during the transition period showed a significant reduction in body weight loss in early lactation due to this improved FCE.
Feed Conversion Efficiency has many applications as a management tool to improve production, profitability and nutrient management. Making improvements in FCE will almost always be profitable as it means getting more milk per unit of dry matter fed or alternatively, the same amount of milk can be achieved by feeding lesser amounts of more expensive higher energy feeds.
For more advice on how to calculate the Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE) of your herd contact Mark Mc Farland at Morton’s on 028 40662521