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Our philosophy about sustainable agriculture is about limiting inputs from outside a farm system to what is strictly necessary. One of the inputs that is often over-imported, wastefully so, is feed. That is in the form of both concentrates and supplements (roughage). Trace & Save has developed a metabolic energy flow calculator, which is a tool to help farmers ensure efficient supply of feed to their animals.

Cattle grazing

Metabolic energy in feed is an important production factor on dairy farms. The total farm metabolic energy flow calculates all of the metabolic energy requirements of cows on the farm and compares it to the total metabolic energy provided through feed on the farm. Metabolic energy requirements take into account the: 1) milking cow herd, 2) dry cow herd, and 3) heifer cows and the metabolic energy provided comes from: 1) pastures, 2) concentrates fed and 3) supplements fed.

The total farm metabolic energy flow provides a picture of whether the requirements of cows on the farm are being met, and if so, how much metabolic energy is being wasted, i.e. what is being provided over and above the requirements? It is a measure of farmer feeding efficiency and gives an indication of metabolic energy utilization efficiency on the farm. It also provides a measure of efficiency of pasture use on the farm, i.e. the extent to which the pasture being grown on the farm is utilized and/or to what extent it is substituted by concentrates and roughage.

Ensuring what is provided is effectively balanced with what is required will result in efficient farming practices. This will result in both minimal wastage of feed (concentrates and roughage) and the effective utilization of pastures grown on the farm. It will also result in the most sustainable feeding practices, which will both save the farmer money and have the lowest possible impact on the environment.

Craig Galloway