Eight ways to lift dairy feed efficiency

A list of eight ways to improve feed efficiency on dairy units has been released following a series of on-farm trials.

Alltech consultants piloted a free-of-charge farm efficiency consultancy programme on 50 commercial dairy farms. Results from the farm trials found even farms in the top 25% for performance could save £216 a cow a year by cutting feed waste.

See also: 8 common factors that can prevent dairy feed efficiency

Average feed waste a cow was £522.44/year, equating to £105,000 over 12 months for a 200-cow herd.

This was through the two areas of inefficiency; wasted feed and suboptimal feed conversion efficiency (FCE).

Optimal FCE depends on forage and system, but Alltech said average FCE was 1.2 litres of milk for every 1kg of dry matter consumed. The target is 1.5 litres.

Alltech recommends making these eight changes to improve feed efficiency

  1. Ensure feed space of 65cm a cow.
  2. Look at ways to reduce sorting down the feed barrier.
  3. Offer cows enough lunging space against walls – the aim is 90cm
  4. Make sure cows have water trough space of 10cm a cow. Farms with good water flow (20 litres/minute) and clean troughs could cope with 7cm a cow. Farms with 5cm a cow or less should increase water space.
  5. Optimise lighting. Lactating cows require 16 hours of 160 LUX lighting, while dry cows need 16 hours of very low lighting.
  6. Discuss mastitis and lameness issues with your vet. Mastitis is the biggest driver of health cost on farm and lameness is second.
  7. Consult your nutritionist if undigested fibre and grain is found in the manure, as this reflects sub-optimal rumen function.
  8. Monitor pregnancy rate and services per conception – are these optimal and hitting industry targets?

What is Alltech Navigate?

  • Service is free of charge
  • A two-hour on-farm assessment
  • Reporting, benchmarking and advice
  • Developed with independent advice from Dr Dave Davies of Silage Solutions, Charlie Morgan of GrassMaster and Cow Signals
  • Works by assessing, analysing and taking action on feed production, storage and feeding, in the field, during storage, at feed-out and inside the cow
  • Aims to increase profit margin by a minimum of 1.2p/litre