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Calculate FCE to check profitability

November 11, 2019

Farmers are being encouraged to keep a close eye on feed conversion efficiency (FCE) this winter, with just a 0.1 change in FCE affecting milk yields by as much as two litres per cow per day.

According to Louise Clarke, ruminant manager at Alltech, many herds are not receiving the target FCE, which is contributing to an overall under-utilisation of feed inputs, and ultimately lost profitability.

She says: "Producers should be aiming for a minimum target FCE of 1.5."

"But the recent Alltech feed waste reduction and utilisation on-farm pilot study showed a huge variance across UK dairy farms."

Performing:

"The average FCE was found to be 1.2, while some high performing herds were reaching 1.7. It is important to note that about 1.7 is the maximum to aim for as much beyond this could start milking off their backs."

Miss Clarke points out that many farmers do not routinely measure FCE and therefore are not necessarily aware of the impact it could be having on business profitability.

"It can be easily calculated by dividing the average litres per cow per day [corrected to 4 per cent fat and 3.2 per cent protein] by the total dry matter fed to give the kilograms of milk per kilogram dry matter."

Many factors can influence FCE, including diet balance, presentation and consistency, as well as the environment. Health and fertility are also key parameters that determine how well a cow can utilise feed.