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DAIRY EVENT: Improve FCE To Avoid Feed Cost Hikes

08 September 2010

UK - Higher feed prices may be unavoidable this winter but farmers can still take action to control feed costs according to Professor David Beever, Keenan International Nutrition Director.

Speaking at the Dairy Event & Livestoek Show at the NEC (September 7th), Professor Beever told farmers they need to focus on feed costs per litre rather than feed price per tonne.

"Increases in feed prices are largely outside farmers' control and there is little you can do to influence them. This winter farmers will have to contend with higher ingredient prices as a result of global market conditions, as well as needing to buy more feed to compensate for redueed silage stocks."

Professor Beever suggests that the typical cost of a dairy TMR is usually around £126/tDM but feed priee increases will push this up towards £140/tDM.

Replacing silage with purchased feed will see this average cost increase to closer to £146/tDM.

"Every £l0/tDM increase in feed price will reduce daily margins by 20p per cow unless something is done to offset the increase. You have to feed cows and reducing diet quality is not an option. So the way to bring down feed cost per litre is to increase the litres produced per kgDM. In other words, improving feed conversion efficiency."

FCE measures the yield of standardised milk: (four per cent fat and 3.3 per cent protein) produced per kg ration DM fed and Professor Beever argues improvements will deliver significant benefits.

"Improving feed efficiency brings down feed costs per litre and so offsets the impact ofhigher prices. A 10 per cent increase in feed efficiency is a perfectly realistic target on most dairy farms and would have the impact of reducing costs per litre by 9 per cent which would be worth 30p per cow per day at a diet cost of £146/tDM."

To achieve high levels of FCE, the diet must contain the correct balance of high-quality forages and supplement ingredients, but then it is important to get the physical aspects of the ration such as forage particle length and specific gravity correct.

Research shows mix quality is absolutely key to improving FCE. Over or under-processing of the ration, can 'disable' a properly formulated diet through destruction of forage particle size or by enabling sorting. The gentle tumbling motion of the light-touch paddle mixing system of a Keenan mixer preserves ration structure, producing a less dense ration with an appropriate mix of particle sizes.

"Farmers are faced with a stark choice. Accept higher feed prices, do nothing and see margins fall. Altematively, take steps to increase feed efficiency now, to reduce the impact of feed prices on feed costs and to maintain margins. It should be a fairly easy decision," Professor Beever concludes.

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