FCE Improvements Can Help Dairy Farmers

UK - Achieving even small improvements in Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE) can help UK dairy farmers to lessen the impact of declining milk prices and increasing feed costs, according to the UK’s largest livestock feed manufacturer.
calendar icon 22 February 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

"FCE is the weight of milk (kg) produced for each kg of feed drymatter consumed and the ultimate measure of a dairy herd’s technical performance because it reflects the efficiency with which the cow converts the feed it consumes (forages, moist and concentrates) into milk.

"Achieving improvements in this Key Performance Indicator will therefore help dairy farmers to combat the impact of these margin-squeezing factors, without adversely impacting either milk production or herd health," states Wyn Morris, Head of Ruminant Development for BOCM PAULS.

"Although pig and poultry producers have used FCE to benchmark herd and flock performance for many years the dairy sector has not yet followed their lead. We believe that this is set to change because feed is now the largest single expense involved in producing milk and has the greatest impact on herd profitability. Achieving even modest improvements can therefore have a dramatic positive impact on ’bottom line’ financial performance.

"Studies that we have conducted with Richard Keenan and Company Ltd demonstrated a wide range in FCE performance, with average herds achieving a figure of 1.18 and the top-performers 1.66. These enormous differences demonstrate that there is potential for average herds to achieve significant improvements.

"Another study, by Promar, highlighted the range in performance at any given level of output. Farms feeding 3000kg of concentrates per cow per annum produced between 6000 litres and 9000 litres of milk per cow, a 50% difference. At 24 pence per litre this equates to £720 in additional milk income per cow per year for the same feed cost, or a massive £93,600 for the average 130-cow herd, a figure which is impossible to ignore.

"FCE tends to improve with increasing energy density and milk output because the proportion of the overall energy supply required for maintenance decreases relative to the total. Feed costs generally decline as FCE increases, but even at 1.2 kg of milk per kg of feed they vary from 6p to almost 10p per litre.

Improving FCE from 1.2 to 1.3 therefore increases the milk production of an 8000- litre cow by 8.5 per cent, or reduces the amount of feed needed to support this yield by over 1kg DMI/day."

To help dairy farmers to improve the FCE of their herds, BOCM PAULS has invested significant resources into developing its new Feed to Milk (F2M) programme, an easy-to-implement system which incorporates the company’s total approach to nutrition. F2M highlights current performance, tracks progression to target and takes into account parameters such as the number of milking cows in the group, milk quality and price, together with average daily production.

It also includes the type, drymatter (DM) and cost of all feedstuffs (forages, blends, concentrates, moist feeds etc), ration details, and feed which is not consumed, which helps to determine current F2M efficiency and identify the potential financial value of improvements.

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