Look beyond feeding to unlock full feed efficiency potential

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Length: 229 words; 1-2 minutes

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With poor feed efficiency commonly adding 1.5-2.5ppl to total feed and forage costs on many dairy units, KW nutritionist Dr Matt Witt is urging milk producers to put every aspect of farm operation under the microscope in a drive to increase efficiency this year.

“Improving how efficiently feed is used to support milk output and fertility can have a huge impact on margins,” he explains. “Even a 5% improvement over the average feed and forage cost of 12-16ppl could save 0.6-0.8ppl, worth £1,200-1,600/month1 for a typical 200 cow herd.

“But it’s important to realise that it’s not just the ration or feed management that matters.”

According to Dr Witt, any factor that affects the cow’s stress levels, comfort, health or access to feed and water can reduce feed efficiency. And all need to be examined closely if maximum value is to be extracted from both home-grown and bought-in feeds.

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Some changes to building design or farm layout can require longer-term planning.

“Some aspects of building design or farm layout do require longer-term planning. But many issues are more easily tackled, whether it’s inadequate lighting and ventilation, contaminated feed and water troughs, or poor forage production and management.

“Correct ration design and feed are important – for milking and dry cows – but it’s often other factors that prevent cows reaching their full potential. If these issues are ignored, no amount of effort put into improving feeding will get performance beyond a certain point.”

1 Based on a 200-cow milking herd averaging 33 litres/day.

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