A major cost component in livestock production is feed, which suggests improved feed efficiency as a promising strategy to improve both competitiveness and environmental sustainability, said the Norwegian research team, which included Margareth Øverland from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
Low self-sufficiency in protein supply for livestock production may be a risk to food security in Norway, associated with factors such as trade distortions, extreme weather, and global price volatility, they noted. The development of alternatives, preferably based on local feed resources, is therefore likely to promote self-sufficiency in feed, said the authors.
Data was generated from two controlled feeding experiments involving dairy cows and finishing pigs, according to their paper published in Livestock Science.
In the dairy cow trial, grass silage optimal in protein content was compared to silage lower in protein content in rations to moderately yielding cows. In the pig trial, imported soybean meal (SBM) was compared to rapeseed meal (RSM) in diets to finishing pigs.
“A feeding regime based on low protein silage was found to be cheaper (–9% to –10%) for moderately yielding dairy cows, suggesting that Norwegian milk production could be based on the low protein silage fed ad libitum.
“On the other hand, despite reducing feed costs, a feeding regime based on rapeseed meal was less profitable, although statistically insignificant, than soybean meal for finishing pig production. Therefore, the nutritional value must improve and/or the price of rapeseed meal [must] drop before it becomes an economically acceptable replacement to soybean meal,” they wrote.
Their study, they outlined, used an alternative multiple-input, multiple-output efficiency measurement approach known as Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA).
“DEA calculates single aggregated indices of efficiency for each unit (e.g. a farm or an individual animal) by considering all inputs and outputs of the production system, thus providing a broad view of the efficiency problem (Soteriades et al., 2015). To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to use DEA to demonstrate and compare the technical and economic effects of various feeding regimes based on livestock production experiments.”
The data for the study came from two feeding experiments involving dairy cows and growing-finishing pigs, said the researchers. Both experiments were conducted at the Center for Animal Research, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Aas, Norway, under the FeedMileage project.
The team said their results from the dairy experiment showed that cheaper low protein silage could be fed to dairy cows without losses in milk production: “Beyond the obvious cost savings, this result is indicative of lower N-excretion to the environment and higher dry matter grass yields arising from harvesting silage at later stages of maturity. On the other side, greenhouse gas emission intensities from milk production may rise at later maturity stages, pointing to trade-offs between multiple economic and environmental concerns.”
The findings in the finishing pig experiment showed that the ability of pigs to transform feed into body growth was not affected by the replacement of SBM with RSM.
“However, the optimal feed intakes under an RSM-diet were lower than under an SBM-diet. Consequently, the optimal daily weight gain was higher under the SBM-diet. This implies that the lower feed costs from the RSM-diet are accompanied by lower revenues due to the negative effects on the growth rate. The computed values suggested the negative effects on revenue outweighed the lower feed costs from the RSM-diet. As a result, the optimal profit under RSM-diet was lower than under SBM-diet. This implies that the adoption of RSM can have negative consequence on the farm economy.”
Further research needed
Further research on improving the nutritional value and palatability of RSM could be crucial in terms of future efforts to promote it as an economically viable option to SBM, said the team.
“One can argue the lower profits under RSM are prices society must pay for lower environmental impacts of using local over imported feed resources. However, previous studies in other countries did not provide credence to such claims and further research is needed to ascertain the environmental impacts under Norwegian conditions.”
Source: Livestock Science
Title: Technical and economic performance of alternative feeds in dairy and pig production
Authors: DM Atsbeha, O Flaten, HF Olsen, NP Kjos, A Kidane, A Skugor, E Prestløkken, M Øverland