Cogent has introduced a new feed efficiency index called EcoFeed to help cattle producers breed more efficient animals.
The EcoFeed index is an integrated approach to genetic selection based on progeny testing of females. It aims to identify sires that produce offspring which consume less feed while maintaining production, compared to their herd mates, to increase farm profitability and sustainability.
To date, 140,000 dairy females across the globe have received a genomic EcoFeed evaluation, making it the largest global feed efficiency database of a single organisation so far, claims Cogent.
See also: Eight ways to lift dairy feed efficiency
In the dairy industry, feed costs represent up to 50% of total variable cost on UK dairy farms, according to Kite Consulting.
Combine that with the current volatility of feed prices and growing competition for feed, it is expected this will rise even further in the near future. With this in mind, selecting and breeding animals that produce the same amount of milk on less feed is a necessary solution, says the company.
Since the start of this programme in 2014, Cogent’s parent company, STgenetics, has evaluated feed conversion efficiency on more than 5,000 female progeny from 700 sires.
It found that high EcoFeed heifers consume up to 24% less feed/day. This equates to 4.7kg, meaning considerable savings in feed costs can be made on dairy farms in the UK. Furthermore, it is a moderately heritable trait (21%).
“Given that feed accounts for the largest variable input cost of production and is inextricably tied with greenhouse gas emissions, the efficient conversion of feed energy to product directly impacts two of the most critical issues currently affecting dairies: feed cost and sustainability,” says Cogent business development manager Rudolph Linde.
Trials are now underway to evaluate the efficiency of dairy beef progeny and Cogent hopes to establish indexes for beef sires for both suckler and dairy farmers.