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Tapping into the Benefits of Net Feed Efficiency

07 May 2014

UK - Net feed efficiency identifies steers that can save over £100 at finishing compared to less efficient animals, a Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) study has found.

By benchmarking cattle for a given level of performance, Net Feed Efficiency (NFE) is allowing researchers on a northern England study farm to identify cattle calculated to save £28 (at present feed prices) over a 12 week period.

Savings come from steers eating less. The study showed that steers with good NFE ate 15 per cent less feed and had 16 per cent better Feed Conversion Ratio.

For SAC Beef and Sheep expert and study leader Dr Jimmy Hyslop this means ‘substantial’ savings.

Speaking at the British Society of Animal Science Annual Meeting last week, he told TheBeefSite that cattle with the best NFE ratings have the lowest NFE figures.

“Net feed efficiency is expressed in kilograms of dry matter intake per day,” said Dr Hyslop. “Animals that eat less for the same level of performance cost less to feed and therefore make more money.”

“Farmers should want animals that perform the same overall for less feed and for this reason it is negative values NFE farmers should want – it’s similar to calving ease values in that regard.”

With a heritability rate of 35-40 per cent, the next step is to incorporate NFE within Estimated Breeding Values so effects can be felt at herd level.

Ultimately, the goal is to arrive at a more efficient herd of breeding cows, as well as a feedlot which maximises rations.

Dr Hyslop told TheBeefSite that, as a biological measure, NFE is beginning to grow in popularity and application around the world.

“The original paper on NFE was back in 1963 but it is only in the last ten to 15 years that the global cattle industry has been applying it,” said Dr Hyslop.

“Here in the UK, it has started to get attention over the last three or so years.”

He added that, while some farmers find NFE difficult to understand, dry matter intake per day and pounds saved per head is easy to grasp.

“This is not about the academic side,” concluded Dr Hyslop. “What counts is the money and the money is substantial.”

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Mainly production and market stories on ruminants sector. Works closely with sustainability consultants at FAI Farms


Top image via Shutterstock

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