“For farmers, increasing feed efficiency not only helps to maintain and promote animal health but it is also a method to increase farm profitability. With feed prices running high, increasing feed efficiency means reducing feed intake costs and/or increasing animal yield with the same amount of feed.”
The growing world population and, along with this, the increasing need for food have become a much more important issue today than ever before. Because it does not seem possible for existing natural resources to meet this alone without any intervention. This is now a major problem that needs to be solved for every industry.
The livestock industry has a key role in meeting the increasing food need in the world, but it, like other industries, faces the necessity of using existing resources in a sustainable and efficient way. This means producing more with fewer resources… In other words, obtaining more animal products with less feed… Is this possible? Representatives of the animal nutrition industry state that it is possible to achieve this with a well-planned feed ration.
We had an interesting interview with Mostafa Medhat, Senior Director of Products and Technology Applications at Si-Ware Systems, creator of NeoSpectra material analysis solutions built on single-chip FT-NIR spectrometers. Si-Ware has recently partnered with Dairyland Laboratories Inc. to create a solution for dairy feed analysis to support feed efficiency and animal performance.
Saying that increasing feed efficiency is an important profitability method for farms, Medhat explains further details in our interview:
Mr. Medhat, what is feed efficiency in farm animals and how is it measured?
When looking at dairy cows, for example, feed efficiency is a simple measure to determine the relative ability of cows to turn feed nutrients into milk or milk components. In the simplest terms, it is the pounds of milk produced per pound of dry matter, or feed, consumed. An animal that produces either greater body mass with the same feed intake or the same body mass with less feed intake would be considered more efficient.
When measuring feed efficiency, it is sometimes confused with feed intake. In other words, for many years it was assumed that feed efficiency was determined by if animals ate “well”, “more” or “all” of feed. Today, feed efficiency in farm animals can be measured in various ways. Simply, it is the measurement of feed intake and weight gain (Feed conversion efficiency (FCE) = Feed intake / weight gain). Examples include Actual Dry Matter Intake (DMI), or the amount of feed a cow consumes per day on a moisture-free basis, or Residual Feed Intake (RFI), which is calculated as the difference between actual consumption and the amount of food an animal is expected to eat based on its mean live weight and rate of weight gain.
So, what are the factors affecting feed efficiency?
There are many factors affecting feed efficiency and these are either direct or indirect. Two examples of direct factors include feed availability and feed quality. Feed availability means giving the animal enough feed to fill the stomach, while feed quality is related to the feed formula and characteristics of the feedstuff and raw materials used in feed production.
In terms of feed quality, residual feed intake tends to be associated with the digestibility of dry matter (DM) and crude protein (CP). Researchers have found that digestibility of DM and of CP was significantly greater for the low RFI, or highly efficient, steers compared to the high RFI, or less efficient, steers. Generally, researchers have found that feed additives could be used to increase digestibility and palatability which could impact feed efficiency.
Other indirect factors impacting feed efficiency include the animal’s age, weight, heat stress, animal comfort, and hydration.
What is the relationship between feed efficiency and animal performance?
When looking at eating as a key term in feed efficiency and bolstering animal performance, it is more important to focus on the efficiency and not necessarily the quantity eaten. In addition, the amount of feed intake and the desired efficiency depends upon the final animal product. In other words, if the animal is targeted for milk production or meat. Maximizing feed efficiency for animals based upon the direct and indirect factors, and their intended output, should have a positive impact on their performance because they will be consuming the optimal intake and nutrients.
How can the feed efficiency of different farm animals (ruminant, pig, poultry, aquaculture) be increased?
In general, feed efficiency for all farm animals falls in one of two directions: 1) Increase animal yield (e.g., milk, body mass, manure, etc.) with the same dry matter intake (DMI), or 2) decrease DMI for the same animal yield.
To achieve increased farm animal efficiency, the following improvements could be made:
a) Improve the feed formula.
b) Improve the farm environment and decrease animal stress.
c) Deploy monitoring tools for diet-related diseases (i.e., ketosis, acidosis); and
d) Utilize monitoring tools for animal gain and yield.
Often one way to improve the feed formula and monitor feed composition is to capture and send in feed samples to the laboratory for testing. This is a critical step to ensure feed quality and proper nutrient composition for farm animals to be able to increase efficiency.
For the first time, Si-Ware is working to bring feed formula (dry and wet) testing to the field in partnership with Dairyland Laboratories. The new dairy feed testing method created by Dairyland, paired with Si-Ware’s NeoSpectra Scanners, will empower users to analyze moisture in real-time, detect trends and changes in quality, and screen ingredient quality. Users will be able to analyze more samples in less time and adjust to feed changes quickly to increase feed efficiency.
Feed efficiency is also the tool to measure how much “good feed” should be used for the maximum yield. It is important to consider that increasing feed efficiency will minimize both feed refusal and feed waste; therefore, reducing costs and increasing profitability.
What impact does increasing feed efficiency have on animal performance and farm profitability?
For farmers, increasing feed efficiency not only helps to maintain and promote animal health but it is also a method to increase farm profitability. With feed prices running high, increasing feed efficiency means reducing feed intake costs and/or increasing animal yield with the same amount of feed.
Feed efficiency helps farmers maintain healthy animals and in turn, improve the quality of animal products, which means stronger pricing for every animal product and output. Feed efficiency is also the tool to measure how much “good feed” should be used for the maximum yield. It is important to consider that increasing feed efficiency will minimize both feed refusal and feed waste; therefore, reducing costs and increasing profitability.
How should feed rations be formulated for better performance? What should be considered while preparing the feed formulation?
Feed formulation is the means to determine rations and volumes of ingredients and additives to blend to meet the known nutrient requirements of targeted species and achieve production goals at an optimized cost. Feed consists of several ingredients, which are grouped into ingredients providing energy including fats, oils, and carbohydrates; proteins (amino acids); vitamins; and minerals. Often, cereal grains such as corn, wheat, and barley, plus added fats are used primarily to provide energy to farm animals. It is critical to utilize scientific research and experiments to fully understand the nutrient requirements for a specific species based on that species’ purpose.
Therefore, when formulating feed with a goal to improve the formula, the feed formula must be calculated based on the simplest forms of chemical groups. For example, protein into amino acids, fats/oils into fatty acids, ash into minerals, etc. The quality and types of these simple forms of chemical groups depends on the source material and production condition of the raw material.
How can farmers and feed processors ensure that their feed formula and composition is accurate and optimal?
The strongest approach is to determine the accurate formula, which requires accurate analysis of the feed ingredients. However, capturing accurate analysis of feed ingredients is historically fairly expensive and time-consuming.
In partnering with Dairyland Laboratories, Si-Ware Systems aims to help alleviate this burden for users and make in-field feed formula and composition a reality. Si-Ware’s NeoSpectra FT-NIR technology offers various measurement parameters including dry matter, protein, fiber, starch, & fat, in a wide range of feed types like corn/grass silage, hay, soybean meal, grains, and more with near-lab accuracy. The NeoSpectra hardware and analysis models are built to allow users to analyze all samples, whether homogenous or nonhomogeneous, without time-consuming sample preparation. This enables users to instantly make decisions to maximize their existing feed mix (and reduce feed waste), and in turn, increase feed efficiency for dairy cattle.
About Mostafa Medhat
Mostafa Medhat joined Si-Ware from the start as the company’s first engineer, leading the R&D team to develop the world’s first single-chip FT spectrometer. With more than 17 years of experience in the semiconductor industry, his background includes Optics, MEMS, Spectroscopy and Data Analytics. He has also worked with Si-Ware partners to develop different products that serve the Agriculture, Food, Beauty, and Personal Care Products industries.
Medhat obtained his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in electrical engineering from Ain Shams University, Cairo in collaboration with Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC) in Leuven, Belgium. He also holds an MBA in project management and is currently a DBA candidate at the International Business Academy of Switzerland (IBAS). He holds more than 15 patents and patent applications, has authored/co-authored more than 30 publications, and has contributed to a book.