Feeding dairy cows and youngstock is one of the highest costs of milk production. This is accepted because to get cows that milk well and remain healthy, they have to be fed properly. However, it is not uncommon for there to be as much as 2ppl difference in feed costs between two similar yielding systems, a figure that will make a significant difference to a farm's profitability.

A term commonly used in the industry to determine how efficiently cows are utilising the feed they are offered is Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE). This is basically a measure of how many litres are produced by the cow from each kg of dry matter consumed. For example a herd with a 1.0 FCE is being out-performed by a herd with a 1.4 FCE.

Comparison of this figure between herds is of little use unless they are the same type of system, as it will be altered by factors such as breed or stage of lactation. However, regular monitoring within a herd can show up some valuable signs of how well your feeds are being utilised by the cows and if the introduction of a new feed or silage crop has disturbed the balance of the diet.

Of course, purely getting the most litres from the cow is not a measure of farm profitability, which is why the FCE can be calculated to be corrected for fat and protein where a milk contract desires milk constituents. Efficiency is key to profitability - whether your system is a low input grazing system or a high input housed system, attention to detail of all different areas of production will determine the farm's success. Fertility for example is a key driver for profit, an area where nutrition and correct feed management plays a critical role. There are many factors that will influence this, however one area seen year on year is excessive body condition loss between calving and peak yield.

This severe negative energy balance results in clogging of the liver which has an insulin effect on the viability of the egg and can have devastating effects on conception rates. Cows, especially high yielding cows, will always lose body condition in this period, however keeping this loss as minimal as possible can show significant effects on the fertility of the herd, this can only be managed by close attention to detail and accurate feeding through this period.

Within the feed and nutrition business there is a wealth of knowledge, drawing from both experience and scientific peer-reviewed trials giving the industry a strong chance of maximising the use of our feeds. However, this information can rarely be accessed from one place easily and quickly by the farmer. feeding+ is designed to act as such a tool. It is a reference document to be used by advisors, vets, farm managers and herdsman alike to help make the critical day to day decisions which ensure your cows are fed efficiently for both production and health.

feeding+ contains modules on different areas of production, whether it be understanding more about nutrition and rumen physiology to making better quality silages.