Feed conversion ratio
In animal husbandry, feed conversion ratio (FCR) or feed conversion rate is a measure of an animal's efficiency in converting feed mass into increases of the desired output. For dairy cows, for example, the output is milk, whereas animals raised for meat – such as beef cows, pigs, chickens, and fish – the output is the mass gained by the animal, the final mass of the animal, or the mass of the dressed output. Specifically FCR is the mass of the input divided by the output. In some sectors feed efficiency, which is the output divided by the input (the inverse of FCR), is used.
Feed conversion ratio (FCR) is the ratio of inputs to outputs; it is the inverse of "feed efficiency" which is the ratio of outputs to inputs. FCR is widely used in hog and poultry production, while FE is used more commonly with cattle. Being a ratio the FCR is dimensionless, that is, it is not affected by the units of measurement used to determine the FCR.
As a rule of thumb, the daily FCR is low for young animals (when relative growth is large) and increases for older animals (when relative growth tends to level out). However FCR is a poor basis to use for selecting animals to improve genetics, as that results in larger animals that costs more to feed; instead Residual Feed Intake (RFI) is used which is independent of size. RFI uses for output the difference between actual intake and predicted intake based on an animal’s body weight, weight gain, and composition.
As for the inputs portion, although FCR is commonly calculated using feed dry mass, it is sometimes calculated on an as-fed wet mass basis, (or in the case of grains and oilseeds, sometimes on a wet mass basis at standard moisture content), with feed moisture resulting in higher ratios.
Conversion ratios for livestock
Animals that have a low FCR are considered efficient users of feed. However, comparisons of FCR among different species may be of little significance unless the feeds involved are of similar quality and suitability.
As of 2013 in the US, a FCR calculated on live weight gain of live-weight gain of 4.5–7.5 was in the normal range with an FCR above 6 being typical. As of 2013 FCRs had not changed much compared to other fields in the prior 30 years, especially compared to poultry which had improved feed efficiency by about 250% since the late 1800s.
The dairy industry traditionally didn't use FCR but in response to increasing concentration in the dairy industry and other livestock operations, the EPA updated its regulations in 2003 controlling manure and other waste releases produced by livestock operators.:11-11 In response the USDA began issuing guidance to dairy farmers about how to control inputs to better minimize manure output and to minimize harmful contents, as well as optimizing milk output.
In the US, the price of milk is based on the protein and fat content, so the FCR is often calculated to take that into account. Using an FCR calculated just on the weight of protein and fat, as of 2011 an FCR of 13 was poor, and an FCR of 8 was very good.
Another method for dealing with pricing based on protein and fat, is using energy-corrected milk (ECM), which adds a factor to normalize assuming certain amounts of fat and protein in a final milk product; that formula is (0.327 X milk pounds) + (12.95 X fat pounds) + (7.2 X protein pounds).
As of 2011, pigs used commercially in the UK and Europe had an FCR, calculated using weight gain, of about 1 as piglets and ending about 3 at time of slaughter. As of 2012 in Australia and using dressed weight for the output, a FCR calculated using weight of dressed meant of 4.5 was fair, 4.0 was considered "good", and 3.8, "very good". In the US as of 2012, commercial pigs had FCR calculated using weight gain, of 3.46 for while they weighed between 240 and 250 pounds, 3.65 between 250 and 260 pounds, 3.87 between 260 and 270 lbs, and 4.09 between 280 and 270 lbs.
Because FCR calculated on the basis of weight gained gets worse after pigs mature, as it takes more and more feed to drive growth, countries that have a culture of slaughtering pigs at very high weights, like Japan and Korea, have poor FCR ratios.
Some data for sheep illustrate variations in FCR. A FCR (kg feed dry matter intake per kg live mass gain) for lambs is often in the range of about 4 to 5 on high-concentrate rations, 5 to 6 on some forages of good quality, and more than 6 on feeds of lesser quality. On a diet of straw, which has a low metabolizable energy concentration, FCR of lambs may be as high as 40. Other things being equal, FCR tends to be higher for older lambs (e.g. 8 months) than younger lambs (e.g. 4 months).
From the early 1960s to 2011 in the US broiler growth rates doubled and their FCRs halved, mostly due to improvements in genetics and rapid dissemination of the improved chickens. The improvement in genetics for growing meat created challenges for farmers who breed the chickens that are raised by the broiler industry, as the genetics that cause fast growth decreased reproductive abilities.
The FIFO ratio (or Fish In - Fish Out ratio) is the feed conversion ratio applied to aquaculture, where the first number is the mass of harvested fish used to feed farmed fish, and the second number is the mass of the resulting farmed fish. A ratio of 3:1 would mean that for every kg of fish farmed, 3 kg fish (generally of another, cheaper to produce or capture fish species) is used to farm it.
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