What is feed efficiency?
An often used and easy definition of feed efficiency is the production per unit of feed consumed and the inverse of the commonly used feed conversion ratio (FCR). It is important to understand feed efficiency as it drives the economic reality of farms, the competitiveness of animal protein producing industries, the sustainability and the pressure on resources worldwide. By improving performance and feed cost reduction with for instance digestibility enhancers, feed efficiency can be increased globally.
Feed efficiency in broilers
Broiler production is considered feed efficient, compared to other livestock species. Feed efficiency is simply expressed as the feed conversion ratio (FCR), representing the ratio between feed intake and body weight. Current commercial broiler chicken genetics species have an impressive feed efficiency potential which helps the sector to be more sustainable and environment friendly.
Feed efficiency in swine
Feed efficiency is generally expressed as the unit of feed consumed per unit of body weight gain. A possible modification is the use of carcass gain instead of body weight gain. Carcass gain is important and has a direct economic impact as pig farmers are being paid on a carcass weight basis. Carcass gain is easily measured at the end of the feeding process when animals are slaughtered. Feed efficiency can also be expressed in financial terms because the goal of swine production is to use feed resources the most efficiently and effectively.
Feed efficiency in dairy cows
Feed efficiency in dairy cows is based on the relative ability to turn feed into milk. In other words, it is the amount of milk produced per amount of dry matter consumed. It is therefore sometimes called dry matter intake efficiency. The nutritional content of milk is also of interest when calculating feed efficiency. Energy-Corrected Milk (ECM) is calculated and based on the fat and protein level in the milk. This last parameter allows standardization and comparison between breeds, systems and farms.
Feed efficiency in aquaculture
FCR is an effective way for aquaculture producers to measure feed efficiency in their systems. Several factors such as species and production system will cause a FCR variation. Values for farmed fish are in general lower than those seen for land-based animals. These low values (e.g. 1.0) can be confusing, as they seem to indicate that almost no waste is generated from feeding. When taking into account the moisture level of feed (+/- 10%) and live fish (+/- 75%), it becomes clear that waste is indeed generated. It is therefore interesting to look at the protein efficiency (P.E.). This parameter is calculated by multiplying the FCR by the ratio of crude protein percentage in feed.
Feed efficiency in companion animals
Feed efficiency of companion animals is also a key parameter to take into account as the ultimate goal is to feed companion animals as close as possible to their ideal protein requirements. Improving feed efficiency will enable to supply companion animals all of their required nutrients, while preserving resources and improving sustainability.