Over the past year feed efficiency has been in the news often as a way to maintain margins. Improving feed efficiency enhances margins, but the method by which improved efficiency is achieved directly impacts the improvements realized.  

Why Feed Efficiency?

Feed efficiency measures the pounds of energy-corrected milk (ECM) or Fat Corrected Milk (FCM) produced per pound of dry matter consumed. This is also a measurement that can determine if the rumen microbes are functioning at optimal efficiency.

To arrive at feed efficiency, divide ECM production by net dry matter intake (DMI). Producers should aim for a feed efficiency in the range of 1.4 to 1.8; meaning for every pound of dry matter consumed, 1.4 to 1.8 pounds of milk is produced.

More Milk or Less Feed?

We’re often asked which is more effective — improving milk production while maintaining DMI or lowering DMI while maintaining milk levels. Both enhance efficiency, so which route that should be taken?

As the chart illustrates, the greatest improvement in profitability comes by increasing milk production. The chart compared these figures against a baseline animal producing 85 pounds of milk and consuming 56 pounds of dry matter. Solids-corrected milk (SCM) price accounts for fat and protein premiums and is set at $14/cwt with feed costs at $0.12/pound.

Reap the Benefits of Improved Efficiency

The exact methods by which feed efficiency improvements can be made will be specific to each operation. Because each dairy’s approach to improving feed efficiency will be unique, progress should be assessed internally. One herd may be able to improve efficiencies by a larger percentage while another makes the same changes and realizes a different end result. Contact your nutritionist to learn more about improving feed efficiency on your dairy.