Feeding takes about 70-75% of the total cost of production in a livestock enterprise. This simply means that the type of feed you serve your farm animals will determine their quality and yield. However, that is not enough to justify your profit but how readily your farm animals convert the feed into your desired product; this is called Feed Conversion Ratio and this is what justifies the actual cost of feeding your farm animal.
Feed conversion ratio or FCR is the rate or degree at which a farm animal converts feed served into the desired output. In practical term, it is the amount or quantity of feed your farm animal will eat to attain a live weight of 1kg or yield a unit of the desired product, say milk or egg.
This parameter is what determines whether a livestock farm makes a profit or otherwise. As a profit-oriented farmer, it is very important you understand the FCR of your farm animal so as to plan your budget before production. It is quite irrational to just feed your farm animals without paying proper attention to the conversion ratio of the feed you are supplying them.
There is a way to test the FCR of any livestock you feed; it is through the use of the Feed Conversion Ratio formula. It involves simple arithmetic. The feed conversion ratio formula is:
FCR = Amount of feed given to the farm animal
Output/Weight of the farm animal
The value you get from this conversion is called the ratio. It shows how well the farm animals actually utilize the feed to produce the desired output. In some cases, it shows the quality of the feed. The output could be meat, milk or egg.
For instance, when you serve your chicken 1kg of feed and after 4weeks, the chicken weighs 2kg; the FCR is 0.5 after using the FCR formula. It means under normal conditions, the chicken will eat 0.5kg of feed to gain 1kg body weight.
FACTORS AFFECTING FEED CONVERSION RATIO
There are several factors that can affect the feed conversion ratio of farm animals; how farm animal converts feed to the desired product does not solely depends on the feed, other factors may affect the conversion ratio. These factors are:
- Age of the farm animal:
Naturally, young farm animals have a faster growth rate and require highly nutritious feed, especially feed rich in protein to ensure the buildup of their body tissues, hence, they have a lower FCR. This is why some farmers end their production before their flocks reach maturity, so as to take advantage of their lower FCR to increase their profit. For instance, selling broiler chicken at 6-7 weeks, the sale of catfish fingerlings and juvenile as fish seeds.
- Feed quality:
Whether you like it or not, what you serve your flock will determine their output. Feeds with low quality will retard the growth rate of the farm animal and also increases the conversion ratio because; farm animal needs to eat more to meet their body requirement, that’s even if they will get their requirement. This is highly counterproductive. Farm animals are supposed to be fed in a way that the feed meets their nutritional requirement; such feed will result in a lower FCR.
For example, in poultry production; different growth stages have their individual diet to cater for the nutritional requirement of the chicken. Chick starter for chicks during the brooding stage, Grower for rearing stage and Finisher or Layers diet for the adult or egg production stage, in case of laying chicken.
Feeding farm animals with feed that does not meet their nutritional requirement is a waste of time and resources and may serve as a threat to the health and well-being of the farm animal in case of deficiency of essential nutrient.
- Management practice:
This has to do with conditions like environmental conditions and health condition of the farm animal. The management practice deployed determines how farm animals respond to different environmental conditions. Irrespective of the management practice adopted, it has to be a production-enhancing environment.
Ventilation and control of ambient temperature are very important. There must be a measure to tackle the variation in seasons; when the ambient temperature is low or during low weather condition, farm animals eat more to regulate their body temperature, this might increase the FCR. Also, regular sanitation of the environment keeps it clean and safe from pathogens that can deter or serve as a threat to the health of the farm animal.
- Genetic makeup of the farm animal:
Some farm animals are genetically bred to produce more output with relatively lower feed. A good example is the broiler chickens; they have the lowest FCR. Commercial laying chicken tends to produce more eggs than the indigenous chickens. These are functions of the modification of the genetic makeup of the farm animals.
FEED CONVERSION RATIO OF COMMON FARM ANIMALS
- Poultry birds have an average FCR of 1.5
- Rabbit has an average FCR of 4
- Feed conversion ratio for cattle is 12.5
- Feed conversion ratio in fish are: 1.7 and 1.5, for tilapia and catfish respectively.
- Feed conversion ratio sheep and Goat have an average FCR of 4.5 on high concentrate feed, 5.5 on good quality forage and about 30 on straw ration.
In conclusion, a lower FCR is the most desired, it means your farm animal eats lesser feed to attain a desired weight or output. Highly nutritious feed has lower FCR; the protein content of the feed plays a major role the FCR, the higher the protein, the lower the FCR and conversely the more the profit made as the cost of feeding is relatively reduced.
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