February 10, 2016


Dairy Efficiency

Dairy efficiency can be defined as pounds of milk produced per pound of dry matter consumed. Monitoring dairy efficiency in the dairy industry has not been used as a common benchmark for monitoring profitability and evaluating dry matter intake relative to milk yield.

With lower milk prices, one way to maintain profitability without sacrificing milk production or herd health is by enhancing feed efficiency. Lower feed intake and higher feed efficiency will have lower excretion as manure; an important factor as manure regulations for whole-farm management are enforced by local, state and national governments.

The measurement of actual feed intake is critical for an accurate dairy efficiency value. (Hutjens)

In 2007 researchers began using GrowSafe feed intake and behavior monitoring technology to measure dairy efficiency. Early findings indicate that there is large variation in residual feed intake among dairy cattle, perhaps as large as that found in the beef cattle industry

Selection for RFI using GrowSafe technology in production dairy herds is feasible. There is opportunity to select dairy heifers for feed efficiency and performance before they enter the dairy herd. It is estimated that RFI measurement combined with sexed semen and other genetic improvement programs will exceed the benefits of selection for lower RFI in beef cattle which includes:

Reduction of feed intake by 10—12%
25—30% reduction in methane production
15-17% reduction in manure N, P and K production
Efficient calves become efficient adults
Progeny of low RFI cattle more efficient
For several years GrowSafe has recognized a significant opportunity in the commercial dairy to measure feed intake and feeding behavior. We have noted that changes in feeding behavior precede changes in milk production, and we have set out to prove that GrowSafe technology can be an objective tool enabling herd improvement and used effectively for:

Early detection of mastitis, metritis and other metabolic disease
Detection of estrus
Prediction of feed intake of individual cows fed in groups
Development of feeding management strategies to improve feed intake
Monitoring of transition cows
Identification and management of dominant cows