Improving feed conversion ratio and feed efficiency of dairy cows
Feed conversion ratio for cattle has a big impact on feed efficiency in ruminants. Cattle feed efficiency is an important performance indicator for a dairy farm. Improve feed conversion and profitability and sustainability of dairy farming will increase. The feed conversion ratio for cattle is most commonly defined as the amount of protein and fat corrected milk that a dairy cow produces divided by the amount of dry matter she consumes. It is however also possible to express feed conversion efficiency as the amount of fat and protein corrected milk produced per unit of nitrogen fed, per unit of energy fed or per unit of methane produced. Lastly, if efficient use of arable land is an issue, feed conversion ratio can be calculated per hectare of pastureland, instead of calculating feed efficiency in ruminants.
Cows with a higher feed efficiency generate the same amount of milk as the rest of the herd while consuming significantly less feed. Feed conversion ratio in lactating cows can vary from <1.3 to >2.0 (See table 1). When comparing feed efficiency of dairy herds, it is important to compare "like for like". If feed conversion efficiency is being calculated in the US, fat and protein corrected milk yield is usually calculated towards 3.5% fat, whereas in Europe it is more common to calculate feed conversion ratio on milk corrected towards 4.0% fat.