• Home
  • Blog
  • Article
  • Feed Conversion Ratio: Unveiling the Secrets of Sustainable Livestock Production

Feed Conversion Ratio: Unveiling the Secrets of Sustainable Livestock Production


Ioannis Mavromichalis, a Ph.D. consultant in the animal nutrition industry, mentioned in Feed Strategy, "In my experience, feed prices always fluctuate. When they rise, the most effective way to maintain profitability is by enhancing the feed conversion ratio, or FCR."

The Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) is crucial in livestock farming as it significantly affects the cost per kilogram of meat. Feed costs can account for 40% to 70% of total production expenses, varying by country and type of livestock. By optimizing the FCR, farms can boost profitability and cut down on feed costs.

This article will explore strategies to enhance feed conversion efficiency and practical methods to reduce feed expenses, ultimately aiming to increase revenue. Individual Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE) plays a significant role in the energy use and ecological footprint of livestock production, influenced by factors such as climate, feed quality, gut microbiota, and genetics. Understanding energy metabolism and growth is essential for improving FCR and achieving superior feed efficiency.

〈Related Article: Mycotoxin in Livestock: Effects and Management


What is the Feed Conversion Ratio?

The FCR is the most widely used metric for measuring feed conversion efficiency in livestock, defined as FCR = feed intake / weight gain. This standardized measurement, facilitated by appropriate feeder systems, offers a simple yet effective calculation. FCR accounts for the feed intake necessary for an animal to gain body weight over a specified period, with a lower FCR indicating better efficiency. The complex biology of FCR is influenced by the interplay between feed intake and energy homeostasis.

In scientific literature, feed efficiency is commonly defined as body weight gain per unit of feed consumed. Sometimes, it is expressed on a dietary energy basis instead of feed intake. Despite its simplicity, the concept of feed efficiency can be subject to practical challenges. Understanding and optimizing FCR is essential for improving livestock efficiency and profitability.


The difference between FCE and FCR

FCR and Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE) are key metrics in livestock farming used to assess feed efficiency, but they differ in calculation and interpretation.


Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR)

FCR is calculated as the feed intake divided by the weight gain of the animal (FCR = feed intake / weight gain). It indicates how much feed is needed for an animal to gain a kilogram of body weight. A lower FCR means better efficiency, reducing production costs and improving profitability.


Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE)

FCE is the weight gain per unit of feed consumed (FCE = weight gain / feed intake), the inverse of FCR. Higher FCE values indicate better efficiency, as more weight is gained per unit of feed. FCE specifically measures the ability of the animal, such as brolier, to convert feed into body flesh or weight.


Key Differences

Calculation: FCR = feed intake / weight gain; FCE = weight gain / feed intake.
Interpretation: Lower FCR and higher FCE indicate better efficiency.
Usage: FCR is common in commercial settings; FCE is used more in scientific research. FCR reflects the actual quantity of feed consumed and the equivalent weight gained over time.


Factors Influencing the Feed Conversion Ratio

Several key factors influence the FCR in livestock. Genetic selection aimed at increasing growth and reducing fat has significantly enhanced FCR. Proper nutrition and the use of feed additives can further improve FCR by boosting feed efficiency. Environmental stress, such as cold conditions, adversely affects FCR; for example, pigs exposed to cold stress exhibit poorer feed conversion. Overcrowded living conditions also negatively impact FCR, as pigs require sufficient space to achieve optimal feed efficiency.

Moreover, health issues and diseases can lead to suboptimal FCR, preventing pigs from efficiently converting feed into body weight. Understanding and managing these factors are crucial for optimizing FCR, enhancing feed efficiency, and increasing overall profitability in livestock farming.


Feed Quality and Composition

Feed quality and composition are critical factors that influence the Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) in livestock. High-quality feed ensures balanced nutrients, providing essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, and energy necessary for optimal animal growth and health. Conversely, poor-quality feed can lead to nutrient deficiencies, which decrease feed efficiency and increase FCR. The addition of feed additives like enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics can enhance nutrient absorption and improve gut health, thereby optimizing FCR. The physical form of the feed, whether in pellets or mash, also impacts intake and digestion efficiency.

Moreover, dietary lipids play a crucial role in the growth, development, and reproduction of aquatic animals by providing metabolic energy and essential fatty acids. In swine, the nutritional concentration affects growth performance and profitability; lower concentrations may reduce growth rates, while higher concentrations could impact the environment and raise costs. Thus, maintaining high feed quality and proper nutrient composition is essential for enhancing feed conversion efficiency and overall profitability in livestock farming.


Animal Breed and Genetic Characteristics

Animal breed and genetic characteristics are pivotal in influencing the Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) in livestock. Different breeds have distinct genetic potentials for growth, feed efficiency, and overall performance. Selective breeding has concentrated on traits such as enhanced growth rates, lean muscle mass, and improved feed efficiency, resulting in significant advancements in FCR.

Certain breeds are naturally more adept at converting feed into body weight, while others possess genetic strengths in disease resistance, indirectly boosting FCR. Research by Santiago et al. (2021) underscores a strong genetic correlation between daily feed intake (DFI) and feed efficiency traits, including FCR. Zuidhof et al. (2014) documented that over the past 50 years, broiler body weight gain has increased by 400% and FCR has decreased by 50%, marking considerable progress in genetic selection. Comparisons of growth curves between genetically selected fast-growing broilers and native strains illustrate the profound impact of genetic improvements on feed efficiency.


Environmental Conditions and Management Practices

Environmental conditions and management practices significantly impact the FCR in livestock. Maintaining optimal temperature, humidity, and ventilation is essential for animal health and feed efficiency. Extreme temperatures or poor ventilation can stress animals, reducing feed intake and worsening FCR. Effective management practices, including providing clean water, proper housing, and adequate space, are crucial.

Overcrowding increases competition for resources and stress, negatively affecting FCR. Biosecurity measures and regular health checks are vital to prevent diseases that lower feed efficiency. For instance, heat stress poses a major challenge in poultry farming. Broiler chickens, lacking sweat glands, rely on panting to cool down. If panting is ineffective, they risk exhaustion and mortality due to circulatory, respiratory, and electrolyte imbalances. Heat stress also triggers hormonal changes that reduce feed consumption and performance. Adopting best practices in environmental management and animal care optimizes FCR, boosting productivity and profitability in livestock farming.


Strategies for Improving the Feed Conversion Ratio

Improving the FCR is vital for enhancing livestock productivity and profitability. Here are some effective strategies:

1. Optimized Nutrition: Provide balanced diets rich in essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, and energy. Incorporating high-quality feed additives, such as enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, and other growth-promoting substances, can enhance nutrient absorption, improve gut health, and increase feed efficiency.

2. Selective Breeding: Focus on genetic selection to breed animals with traits like faster growth rates, lean muscle mass, and efficient feed conversion. Over time, this genetic improvement can lead to significantly better FCR.

3. Environmental Control: Maintain optimal environmental conditions, including proper temperature, humidity, and ventilation. Reducing heat stress and ensuring a comfortable living environment are crucial for maximizing feed efficiency.

4. Effective Management Practices: Implement good management practices, such as providing clean water, adequate space, and proper housing. Regular health checks and biosecurity measures are essential to prevent diseases that can negatively impact FCR.

5. Precision Feeding: Use precision feeding techniques to match feed supply with the nutritional needs of animals at different growth stages. This approach reduces waste and ensures animals receive the right nutrients at the right time.

6. Stress Reduction: Minimize stress factors by avoiding overcrowding and handling animals gently. Stress can reduce feed intake and efficiency, so maintaining a calm and comfortable environment is important.By employing these strategies, including the use of targeted feed additives, farmers can improve FCR, leading to better feed efficiency, healthier animals, and increased profitability in livestock operations.


Selecting Suitable Feed Formulations

Selecting appropriate feed formulations is critical for optimizing the FCR in livestock. High-quality feed that meets the specific nutritional requirements of animals ensures efficient nutrient absorption and growth. Formulations should include balanced amounts of nutrients and proper to support overall health and productivity.

Additionally, incorporating feed additives, such as enzymes, probiotics, and essential oils, can enhance digestive efficiency and inhibit pathogenic bacteria, further improving FCR. Advanced feed additives, such as Surfactin from Bacillus sp. and herbal essential oils, have shown significant benefits in promoting gut health and nutrient utilization. By carefully selecting and tailoring feed formulations, livestock producers can achieve better feed efficiency, reduced costs, and enhanced animal performance, ultimately leading to increased profitability in livestock farming.


Managing a Well-Maintained Rearing Environment

Creating and maintaining a well-managed rearing environment is critical for optimizing the FCR in livestock. Proper environmental conditions, including adequate ventilation, optimal temperature, and controlled humidity, play a significant role in animal health and feed efficiency. Ensuring sufficient space and minimizing overcrowding helps reduce stress and competition for resources, which can negatively impact FCR.

Clean and sanitary housing prevents the spread of diseases that can hinder growth and feed utilization. Regular health checks and robust biosecurity measures are essential for early detection and control of illnesses. Implementing best practices in environmental management, such as providing clean water and high-quality bedding, creates a stable and conducive environment for livestock. This, in turn, enhances their growth and feed conversion efficiency. Effective management of the rearing environment is a key strategy for improving livestock productivity and profitability, ensuring optimal FCR, and promoting overall animal well-being.


Using Biotechnological Methods to Improve Efficiency

Biotechnological methods to improve efficiency primarily include strategies such as fermentation, genetic modification, enzyme engineering, and synthetic biology. Advances in fermentation technology include optimizing conditions, using genetically modified strains, employing continuous fermentation systems, and incorporating with patented solid-state manufacturing process .

Genetic modification enhances plant and microbial genomes to increase their resilience and production capacity, thereby boosting efficiency in agricultural and industrial production. Enzyme engineering optimizes enzyme performance through directed evolution and genetic engineering, improving the speed and selectivity of chemical reactions in industrial processes. Synthetic biology designs and synthesizes new biological systems to achieve production goals that traditional methods struggle to attain, further enhancing productivity and sustainability. These biotechnological approaches not only increase yield and quality but also reduce resource consumption and environmental pollution.

Monitoring and Adjusting Feed Supply

Monitoring and adjusting feed supply is a crucial strategy for optimizing livestock production. Regular monitoring involves assessing the content of feed’s feed and evaluating the animals' health and performance metrics, such as growth rate, feed intake, and production output. Farmers can identify any deficiencies or imbalances in the feed by keeping a close watch on these factors.

Adjusting the feed strategy based on these observations ensures that livestock receive the comprehensive additives and tailored to their specific needs, which vary according to genetics, weight, physiological stage, and environmental conditions. This proactive approach helps maintain optimal Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR), enhance growth rates, and improve overall productivity. Implementing precision feeding techniques and utilizing advanced feed additives, can further support these efforts by promoting efficient intestinal health and result in robust animal health.

Impact of the Feed Conversion Ratio on Animal Health

The FCR is a key determining animal health and well-being in livestock production. FCR is a measure of how efficiently animals convert feed into body mass or products such as milk or eggs. A lower FCR indicates better efficiency, as less feed is required for each unit of output.

Efficient FCR directly impacts animal health by ensuring optimal nutrition intake and minimizing stress on the digestive system. Animals with improved FCR typically experience better growth rates, reduced susceptibility to diseases, and enhanced immune function. Moreover, efficient FCR contributes to economic sustainability for farmers by lowering feed costs and reducing environmental impacts associated with livestock production. Therefore, maintaining and improving FCR through proper nutrition and biotechnological advancements not only enhances animal health but also supports sustainable and profitable agricultural practices.


Growth Rate and Weight Management

Efficiency in feed conversion, measured by the Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR), significantly impacts the growth rates and weight management of livestock. A lower FCR indicates that animals can convert feed into body mass more efficiently, which results in faster growth rates and improved weight management. This efficiency is achieved through enhanced nutrient absorption and digestive processes, allowing animals to reach market weight or optimal breeding conditions more quickly.

Maintaining an efficient FCR also helps in achieving consistent body condition scores and managing weight gain effectively across different stages of production. By reducing the amount of feed needed per unit of growth, optimizing FCR not only boosts productivity but also lowers overall production costs. Therefore, focusing on improving FCR through advanced nutrition and biotechnological advancements is essential for achieving optimal growth and efficient weight management in livestock farming.


Immune Function and Disease Resistance

The FCR also plays a crucial role in influencing immune function and disease resistance in livestock. A more efficient FCR, where animals convert feed into body mass effectively, supports optimal immune system function. This efficiency ensures animals receive sufficient nutrients to maintain robust immune responses, crucial for resisting diseases and infections. Improved FCR typically correlates with enhanced disease resistance, as animals with better nutritional intake and digestive health are better equipped to combat pathogens.

Additionally, maintaining a balanced and efficient FCR reduces stress on the animal's digestive system, further supporting overall health and resilience against illnesses. By focusing on optimizing FCR through proper nutrition and advanced biotechnological methods, farmers can promote stronger immune systems in livestock, ultimately enhancing disease resistance and create a comprehensive strategy for animal health and welfare.


Dietary Habits and Intestinal health

The FCR significantly influences the dietary habits and intestinal health of livestock by determining how efficiently animals convert feed into body mass. This efficiency is determined for maintaining optimal dietary habits and intestinal function.

Muco-defen® is a pivotal product in supporting gut health through specialized formulation, Surfactin, a patented solid-state fermented second metabolite from Bacillus sp.. Muco-defen® can prevent pathogenic bacteria colonization, interfere replication of enveloped virus. By enhancing a healthy gastrointestinal tract, it results in enhancing mucosal integrity and cultivate a balanced gut microbiota, thereby boosting overall immunity system. Livestock with optimized FCR tend to exhibit improved digestion and absorption, resulting in fewer gastrointestinal issues and enhanced well-being. By prioritizing the optimization of FCR with intestinal health agent such as Muco-defen®, farmers can foster healthier dietary habits and reinforce robust intestinal health in their livestock. This approach not only enhances productivity but also elevates animal welfare standards.


In conclusion, optimizing the Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) in livestock is crucial for promoting healthy dietary habits, robust intestinal health, and overall productivity. An efficient FCR leads to a more comprehensive feed strategy, reduces digestive disorders, and enhances animal well-being, highlighting its vital role in modern agriculture.

At Life Rainbow Biotech, we specialize in innovative solutions such as Muco-defen®, a renowned feed additive designed to improve gut health and boost livestock immunity. Our products leverage advanced biotechnological methods to assist farmers in achieving outstanding results in livestock feed and management. Discover how our customized solutions can enhance your operation's efficiency and profitability. Contact Life Rainbow Biotech today to explore our extensive range of services and products tailored to your specific needs.


Feed Efficiency: Explanation & Benefits to the Herd
The impact of feed conversion ratio and feed efficiency on profitability of dairy farming
A review of feed efficiency in swine: biology and application
Feed conversion efficiency in aquaculture: do we measure it correctly?


Life Rainbow Biotech is a manufacturer with R&D of antibiotic-free feed additives. We focus on mycotoxin solution, intestinal pathogen control, immune enhancement and aqueous nutrition supplement.


Article Classification

Keyword Search

Subscribe to Newsletter


Article Catalog