This fact sheet has been developed to support the implementation of the Natural Resources Conservation Service Feed Management 592 Practice Standard. The Feed Management 592 Practice Standard was adopted by NRCS in 2003 as another tool to assist with addressing resource concerns on livestock and poultry operations. Feed management can assist with reducing the import of nutrients to the farm and reduce the excretion of nutrients in manure.
Feed efficiency (also referred to as dairy efficiency) can be defined as pounds of milk produced per pound of dry matter (DM) consumed. Beef, swine, fish, and poultry industries have used feed efficiency (feed to gain or gain to feed ratio) as a benchmark for profitability. Monitoring feed efficiency or FE in the dairy industry has not been used as a common benchmark for monitoring profitability and efficiency of converting nutrients to milk yield. The “new focus” on maximizing efficiency reflects the fact that as cows consume more feed, digestive efficiency decreases because the relationship between net energy-lactation intake and milk production is subject to diminishing returns. The “traditional focus” was that as cows consume more feed to support higher milk production, the proportion of digested nutrients captured as milk is proportionally higher.
With lower milk prices, one way to maintain profitability (economics) without sacrificing milk production or herd health is by enhancing Feed Efficiency (FE). Table 1 is an example of how improving FE impacts the bottom line. Herd A produced 80 pounds of milk when consuming 57 pounds of DMI, resulting in a FE of 1.40. Herd B produced the same amount of milk, but the cows consumed only 50 pounds of dry matter, for a FE of 1.60. Assuming feed costs of $0.07 per pound of dry matter, Herd B has a lower feed cost of $0.49 per cow per day compared to Herd A. In addition, Herd B with the lower feed intake and higher feed efficiency will have lower nutrient excretion as manure. This will be important as manure regulations for whole-farm nutrient management are enforced by local, state, and national government groups.
|Measurement||Herd A||Herd B|
|Milk income @ $12/cwt||$9.60||$9.60|
|Feed costs @ $.07/lb dry matter||$3.99||$3.50|
|Income of over feed costs||$5.61||$6.10|
|Cost to produce 100 lbs milk||$4.99||$4.38|
Optimizing feed intake is the “magic” term; not maximizing DM intake (DMI). Higher nutrient demand for higher milk production led to maximum DMI to meet higher requirements. The more DM the cow eats, the more she will milk. For Holstein cows, each additional pound of DM consumed could lead to an additional two pounds of milk. If one pound of DM costs seven cents, two pounds of milk can be worth 30 cents added income or 23 cents more income over feed costs. This guideline assumes two points.
Composition of the diet (forage to grain ratio) and dry matter intake (multiples of maintenance) has marked effects on digestibility and subsequent energy values. Diets that do not promote optimal rumen fermentation will result in an over-estimation of energy values and will impair health.
Feed efficiency (FE) values in the field can vary from 1.1 to 2.0 (Table 2).
|Group||Days in milk||FE (lb milk/lb DM)|
|One group, all cows||150 to 225||1.4 to 1.6|
|1st lactation group||<90||1.4 to 1.6|
|1st lactation group||>200||1.2 to 1.4|
|2nd + lactation group||<90||1.6 to 1.8|
|2nd + lactation group||>200||1.3 to 1.5|
|Fresh cow group||<21||1.2 to 1.4|
|Problem herds||150 to 200||<1.3|
The following factors will shift FE values.
Management factors listed below can be used to evaluate and refine FE values measured on dairy farms.
3.5% FCM = (0.4324 x lb of milk) + (16.216 x lb of milk fat)
3.5% fat and protein corrected milk (lb)=(12.82 x lb fat) + (7.13 x lb protein) + (0.323 x lb of milk)
In 476 treatment observations in a data set compiled from journal articles by Agri-King, the difference between 3.5% FCM corrected and uncorrected milk for fat ranged from -0.28 to +0.41 units reflecting the need to adjust for milk fat.
New software programs will be developed to allow the use of on-farm data to produce standardized FE values (similar to management level milk or 150 day milk). Using these spreadsheets, managers could enter days in milk, body weight, milk yield, milk fat test, milk protein test, changes in body condition score, environmental temperature, walking distances, and lactation number and the software will adjust values using research-based equations. When a management change is made, FE will reflect the impact in the herd.
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This fact sheet reflects the best available information on the topic as of the publication date. Date 6-20-2006
This Feed Management Education Project was funded by the USDA NRCS CIG program. Additional information can be found at Feed Management Publications.
This project is affiliated with the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center.
Michael F. Hutjens
Department of Animal Science
University of Illinois, Urbana
Dave Casper – Agri-King, Inc.
Jim Drackley – University of Illinois