Cut Costs by Calculating Feed Efficiency

feed mixing

(Photos: Jim Dickrell/Dairy Today)

Accurate feed mixing and daily adjustments for prior-day feed refusals are important keys to feed efficiency.

Feed efficiency is a measurement used to determine how well a cow uses its feed – simply put, it is the ratio of milk produced per pound of dry matter consumed.

Calculating a feed efficiency ratio has been used to measure production and profitability of livestock operations for ages. Rising feed prices and dwindling resources have made the metric even more valuable in recent months.

To calculate feed efficiency, use the following formula:

(Pounds of Milk Produced) / (Pounds of Feed Consumed) = Feed Efficiency

Keep in mind that feed efficiency should only include the amount of food that was actually consumed. Dry matter losses and refusals should be weighed and subtracted from the total amount offered.

Not getting the results you expected? Feed efficiency ratios can be a great indicator that your heat abatement methods, cow comfort practices, forage quality/consistency, or feeding management plans could be optimized.

Feed efficiency can be improved in two ways – increasing the milk yield from a constant amount of feed, or reducing the dry matter intake and maintaining milk production. Optimizing feed efficiency can also help alleviate manure management concerns, as animals who convert feed into milk more efficiently excrete smaller amounts of manure and manure nutrients.

Calculating your feed efficiency regularly is an excellent way to monitor production and ensure profitability on the dairy farm.



Dickrell, Jim. “Feed Efficiency Revisited.” Dairy Today 5 May 14.

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