Then feed conversion becomes very important. For that reason, CRV is implementing the new breeding strategy ‘FeedExcel’, in order to breed the type of cows, explains Gert-Jan van den Bosch from CRV. This organization can base all of this on years of thorough research into feed intake and feed conversion. Van den Bosch draws attention to optimal conversion. ‘Feed efficiency is not only about maintenance feed. You don’t need to breed a small cow to produce milk efficiently. In our research, that turned out to be a real eye-opener: large differences can be found between individual cows when it comes to their use of feed. So you can have two cows with exactly the same body weight, and the one converts feed into milk much more efficiently than the other. Of course, for farmers that cow is far and away the most economical. So it is very well possible that you have a heavy cow that can very efficiently make milk from feed. Only looking at maintenance feed is certainly not adequate.
- Source: Holstein International, magazine June 2023 -
Cows that efficiently convert feed into lots of milk, that also have high longevity and strong scores for health: These are the cows that dairy farmers like to see on their farms. Feed costs are high, land is expensive, and material is costly.
In order to breed cows using the FeedExcel approach, CRV recommends sires that score high for the CRV feed efficiency index and that also have above average indexes for longevity and the CRV trait Health (in which fertility, udder health, and hoof health are included). These sires are under the FeedExcel banner and result in a herd that more efficiently converts feed into milk, fat, and protein. An interesting note: thanks to studies on five CRV research farms, the index for feed efficiency reaches a reliability of 75-85% for progeny-proven sires. (For DNA sires, it is 50%).
By way of indication, Van den Bosch mentions a number of FeedExcel sires: Encourage, Upside (both sired by Bush-Bros Fragrant) and Woody (progeny proven) for black and white; Borax-Red, Kingdom-P and Jacuzzi-Red (progeny proven) for red & white; Mecanico, Yamcha and Lukaku (progeny proven) in CRV’s American program. Van den Bosch concludes: ‘Of course, FeedExcel also takes into account the relationship with methane emissions, which is lower as well. In addition, we are currently conducting a lot of field research into this area’.