Feed Efficiency and Sustainability in the Dairy Industry


About the Website:
This website was created to fulfill the educational objectives of the dairy feed efficiency project, a multistate, USDA funded project (2011 to 2017). The website provides information on feed efficiency and sustainability of dairy industry from the basics to the understanding deeper concepts. Anyone who visits the website without any basic knowledge on the concepts of feed efficiency and dairy sustainability would be able to get a deeper understanding. Educational materials on feed efficiency and sustainability of dairy industry have prepared as grade-specific lesson units for the school children from kindergarten to the grade 12. Also, study units or sources of information for undergraduate and graduate students, and the general public are included.

What is the challenge?
The world population is rising; so does the demand for food products. However, the resources available for food production such as land, water, fertilizer, labor, and feed for livestock are diminishing. Producing food products for an increasing demand with limited resources will be a greater challenge faced by the human being in years to come. Also, the negative effects of any food industry on the environment is of a greater concern. As any other food industry, the dairy industry also facing a challenge of producing milk with limited resources. The efficient milk production or producing milk with fewer resources for a long period of times or in a sustainable manner is a strategy to meet the demand of milk and protect the available resources to produce food for future generations.

Why do we have to measure the performance of dairy cows?
The milk production using dairy cows is an economic activity or an industry. In the dairy industry, the major input is feed to dairy cows and major output is milk from dairy cows. Simply, dairy farmers spend money to feed the dairy cows and earn money by selling the milk or milk products. As in any other industry, the objective of the dairy production is to get more money from selling milk compared to money spent on feeding the cows and other activities or earn a profit. As cows are producing milk as an output, measuring the performance or how many of pounds of milk they produce is important. Also, we need to know the amount of feed that they consume.

Profit = Value of output – Value of input

How efficient dairy cows are?
It is easier to measure how many pounds of milk is being produced by a dairy cow in a day. We prefer to see more pounds of milk being produced by a dairy cow. Also, it is important to know that how many pounds of feed they consume in a day as the cost of feeding is a significant proportion of the total expenditure in the dairy industry. As we like to see less money spent on feed, we prefer to see fewer pounds of feed consumed by a dairy cow to produce milk. In the dairy industry, the performance of a dairy cow could be calculated dividing the amount of milk produced by the amount of feed consumed by a dairy cow. This ratio is called “dairy efficiency” or “feed efficiency”. Simply, it is how many pounds of milk a dairy cow produce when you feed her a pound of feed (on dry matter basis).

Feed efficiency =(Pounds of milk produced)/(Pounds of feed consumed)

What is the importance of feed efficiency?
Dairy cows are amazing animals who can convert feed that is inedible to humans especially the forage and agricultural by-products into a high-quality source of food for humans, milk. However, a significant portion of nutrients fed to dairy cows are wasted as gasses (enteric emissions), and manure (urine and feces). As the cost of feeding is a significant proportion of the expenditure in the dairy industry, extracting more nutrients from the feed and converting them to milk or improving the efficiency of feeding is vital for the profitability of the dairy farmers. Also, improving feed efficiency helps to reduce the amount of nutrients excreted in the manure. That helps to save the cost of nutrients ended up in the manure, reduce the liability of handling the manure by dairy farmers, and reduce the negative effects of enteric gas emissions, and manure to the environment.

What is dairy sustainability?
Sustainability is a word that we hear more frequently in the present time. What is the meaning of sustainability and what is the connection with dairy industry?
Simply, dairy sustainability is the capability of the dairy industry to be continued for a long term. There are three basic requirements to fulfill to be able to sustain as an industry. As any other industry, if one or more requirements failed to accomplish, dairy industry would not be able to survive. The three basic requirements considered in the dairy sustainability are
  1. Economic viability: ability of the dairy industry to make profits in a long run,
  2. Social responsibility: ability to satisfy human food need and enhance the quality of life of the farmers and the society, and
  3. Environmental friendliness: ability to operate the industry with a minimal negative impact on the environment.

    Overview of the Educational Materials

    Educational materials on feed efficiency and dairy sustainability have been prepared to cover a wide range of audiences which include 3 basic categories of learners,
  1. School children,
  2. The scientific community, and
  3. The general public which include consumers and voters.
Educational materials prepared for school children (from kindergarten to grade 12) will help them to understand the basics of the feed efficiency of dairy cows and dairy sustainability. Undergraduate and graduate students, animal scientists, personnel from animal feed industry, livestock farmers, environmental analysts and policy-makers will be able to understand the deeper concepts and applications of the feed efficiency and dairy sustainability concepts in the real life situations and to receive up to date research knowledge on the subject. General public will be able to understand the historic achievements of the US dairy industry on milk production, basic practices, technologies used in the dairy industry, practices used by the dairy industry towards the environmental stewardship, and the misconceptions about the dairy industry. Educational materials for school children (K-12) Three basic grade-specific lesson units have been prepared for the school children.
  • Early elementary (grades K-2)
  • Late elementary (grades 3-5), and
  • Middle and high School (grades 6-12)
  • Each grade-specific lesson unit is prepared based on a basic story and followed by a series of activities. Early elementary educational materials have been created to introduce the concept of efficiency that dairy cows’ ability to convert the human inedible feed ingredients into human-edible food, milk. The aim of the educational materials on late elementary to make the students aware of the basics of feed efficiency or concept of making more milk dairy cows while feeding a lesser amount of feed. The basic concepts of the resource (feed, water, land, human and labor) utilization efficiency in the dairy industry and dairy sustainability, historical achievements of the US dairy industry in terms of feed efficiency, and environmental stewardship have been included in the educational materials for middle and high school children. Additionally, a teaching guide was prepared to help teachers when they teach feed efficiency and dairy sustainability concepts to school children from kindergarten to grade 12.

    Educational Materials

    Download the educational materials today:
    Category Grade Document Download
    Teachers' Guide K-12 Teachers' Guide pdf
    Early Elementary K-2 Short Story I-Daisy the Dairy Cow pdf,
    K-2 Lets Draw a Dairy Cow pdf, ppt
    K-2 Lets Know More About Dairy Cows pdf
    K-2 Lets Draw a Dairy Cow pdf, ppt
    K-2 Kids Dairy NoteBook pdf
    Late Elementary 3-5 Short Story-II-Daisy the Dairy Cow pdf
    Middle and High School 6-12 Short Story-III-An American Success Story pdf
    Undergraduate/Graduate Students Data Base-Dairy Feed Efficiency of US xls
    Undergraduate/Graduate Students Case Study-California and Wisconsin pdf
    Undergraduate/Graduate Students Feed Efficiency and IOFC Calculations xls


    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
    Ayrshire: any of a breed of hardy dairy cattle varying in color from white to red or brown
    Alfalfa: a type of plant that is grown mostly as food for farm animals.  A deep-rooted southwest Asian plant of the legume family with purple flowers and leaves like clover that is widely grown for hay and forage.

    Butter: a solid yellow substance made from milk or cream that is spread on food or used in cooking or solid yellow fatty food made by churning milk or cream
    Barn: a building on a farm that is used for storing grain and hay and for housing farm animals or equipment or a building used chiefly for storing grain and hay and for keeping farm animals or farm equipment in

    Cow: the mature female of cattle
    Calf: the young of the domestic cow
    Dairy products:
    Dairy: a farm that produces milk or a farm devoted to the production of milk
    Dairy cow: 


    Farm: a piece of land used for growing crops or raising animals
    Farmer: a person who runs a farm


    Heifer: a young female cow
    Hay: grass that has been cut and dried to be used as food for animals

    Ice cream: a frozen food containing sweetened and flavored cream


    Kefier: a beverage of fermented cow's milk

    Legume: a type of plant (such as pea or a bean plant) with seeds that grow in long cases (called pods)

    Milk: a white liquid produced by a woman to feed her baby or by female animals to feed their young

    Nostril: one of the two openings of the nose

    Oats: the seeds of the oat plant used as feed for farm animals and in foods (such as bread and oatmeal) for people
    Ox: a bull that has had its sex organs removed or an adult castrated male ox ussed especially for hauling loads

    Pasture: a large area of land where animals feed on the grass

    Quart: a unit of liquid measurement equal to two U.S. pints or 0.946 liters

    Rotary milk parlor

    Straw: a single dry stem of a grain plant

    Tail: the rear end or a process or prologation of the rear end of the body of an animal
    Tractor: a large vehicle that has two large back wheels and two smaller front wheels and that is used to pull farm equipment

    Udder: the bag-shaped part of a cow, goat, etc., that hands below the belly and produces milk

    Vaccine: a substance that is usually injected into a person or animal to protect against a particular disease or a preparation containing usually killed or weakened microorganisms (as bacteria or viruses that is given usually by injection to increase protection against a particular disease

    Wheat: a kind of grain that is used to make flour for breads, cookies, etc. and is important in animal feeds
    Whipped Cream


    Yak: a lage long-haired wild or domesticated ox (Bosgrunniens syn. B. mutus) of Tibet and adjacent elevated parts of central Asia or a wild or domestic ox of the uplands of central Asia that has very long hair
    Yogurt: a thick soft food that is made of milk soured by the addition of bacteria and that is often flavored and sweetened

    Zebu: an Asian domestic ox that has a large hump over the shoulders and loose skin with hanging folds

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    KeywordsFeed Efficiency; Sustainability   Doc ID69090
    OwnerSanjeewa R.GroupDairy Nutrient
    Created2016-11-29 17:14:18Updated2017-12-07 22:34:19
    SitesDS Dairy Nutrient Main
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