Saved Feed Index

How to use feed more efficiently and optimize your business? 

Achieve higher feed efficiency in your herd 

Studies show that up to 88% of the variable costs on a dairy farm relates to feed costs.  From an economic point of view, breeding for improved feed efficiency is an important area to focus on. The decision to invest in genetics that you make today will have an impact on your bottom line in the years to come. 

Reduce feed costs in your herd

It is a fact that heavy cows eat more to maintain themselves than lighter cows. This also means that, from a feed efficiency point of view, lighter cows use less feed for maintenance. For maintenance efficiency, daughters of two bulls having a difference of 20 index units will have a difference in dry matter intake (DMI) of 60-80 kg per lactation

Long-term improvement

The genetic improvement that you achieve is a permanent and desired improvement accumulated through generations and will increase your profit margins

While optimal management and improving the environment are important short-term solutions for optimizing feeding in your herd, genetics is a crucial long-term solution. To achieve success, you need to focus on both genetics and management. 

Download our brochure about feed efficiency

Here you will find more detailed information on how you can optimize your herd, covering:

  • Breeding as a tool to improve feed efficiency
  • 5 management tips for optimizing feeding routines


Saved feed index based on reliable data 

With thorough research and by joining forces with leading research partners, we are working on creating a reliable index for how efficient a cow is in turning feed into milk. Feed efficiency consists of two components in Saved feed index. Maintenance measures how much energy a cow uses due to her body size. It is well known that heavier cows use more energy than less heavy cows at the same production level. Metabolic efficiency measures how efficient the cow is in converting feed energy in her body. This is energy used, for instance, to support milk production.  

We are working to develop an extensive registration system to make data for individual cow’s feed intake over her lifetime available. We focus on collecting the data that are comparable across the breeds and herds. Dairy farmers in the Nordic countries deliver high-quality and accurate data.  This provides important insights for research and development, as it is the commercial herds and not a limited number of research farms that provide data.  

Reliable data for maintenance efficiency 

The breeding value for maintenance efficiency is based on different measures of live weight. Heart girth measurements from Finland are used together with scale measurements from Denmark. To improve the reliability of breeding values, the conformation traits like stature, body depth and chest width are used as indicator traits for maintenance efficiency. This is because these traits have a rather high genetic correlation with live weight and are therefore good indicator traits. Reliabilities for GEBV for maintenance efficiency are 59-74%, which is comparable with genomic values for health traits that have a high reliability in the Nordic system. 
Sustainable genetics for the future

We have always put health and reproduction in a balanced focus with production traits. Our latest challenge is to lead the dairy industry in finding solutions to make dairy farming more sustainable and efficient. 

Data show that there is negative genetic correlation between health and frame. We have focused on limiting the genetic progress for frames in order to breed medium-sized cows that are healthy, high-producing and efficient, and therefore deliver the highest possible profit.

Improving efficiency and production  

More milk and meat with less cost 

While you are working to achieve the best milk or meat yields through efficient farm management and a well-planned breeding strategy, we are working to develop a reliable tool to breed the next generation of high-yielding, trouble-free and efficient cows. With a consistent focus on breeding, you can achieve genetic progress for production, health and feed efficiency and improve your bottom line.

More environmentally-friendly cows 

Research regarding greenhouse gases indicates that, on average, 6% of the energy that a cow eats is spent on producing methane. However, this varies from 2-12% depending on how efficient the cow is in converting feed into milk.

Saved feed index based on reliable data 

A Saved Feed Index is an important tool that helps you in making everyday decisions easier and more efficiently. To ensure your cows are resilient, productive and climate friendly, it is equally necessary that you have similar data on their feed intake. 

“I see a great value in including the Saved feed index into the breeding goal. This equips me with an excellent tool to optimize my dairy business and ensures that we live up to the expectations of consumers who are more and more conscious about climate change and sustainable food production. This is so important for the future of dairy farming, and I am proud to contribute positively and help solve this challenge.”

 Anders Levring, Denmark 450 cows, VikingJersey

”Animal welfare and environmental issues are of great importance to our business. From August 2020 the Saved Feed index will be included in the NTM, we will get a tool to include breeding for higher efficiency into our strategy. Feed is a huge cost and we look forward to breeding more productive and efficient cows.” 

Sofia & Gustav Kämpe, Torpet Farm, Sweden 200 cows, VikingRed, VikingHolstein

“Our planet is facing a climate challenge. Dairy farming has the opportunity to help solve this challenge. We focus on breeding more efficient and high-yielding cows with a long productive life. The Nordic breeding goal and decades of knowledge and experience not only secure the profitability of my dairy business but also help me to do things better.” 

Mette Tvingbro, Denmark 230 cows, VikingJersey


Future opportunities – the next step is individual cow feed intake and metabolic efficiency

Maintenance efficiency doesn’t tell you anything about how efficiently an individual cow utilises the feed she eats. VikingGenetics has developed a Cattle Feed Intake System (CFIT) where the feed intake of individual cows can be monitored by 3D cameras in barns. Today we know the composition of the feed, but so far it has only been possible to measure the amount of feed that each cow consumes on experimental farms with expensive equipment. Analyses of the data collected on cows' weight, feed intake and milk production will contribute to identifying which cows have the most efficient energy intake. 

Science and research boost your profits 

As one of the first movers, we are exploring the missing link in the feed efficiency equation – the individual cow feed intakeThe Saved Feed Index is the result of extended research and collaboration between the Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE), the Nordic Cattle Genetic Evaluation (NAV) and the University of Aarhus in Denmark and VikingGenetics, as well as other international partners. The research activities for developing a genetic evaluation for feed efficiency were already initiated in 2013.  

"Our goal is to develop a Saved Feed Index that can stand out from other ones available on the market – an index that dairy farmers around the world can trust. That is why we have been working in close collaboration with our partners to develop a more affordable technology to identify which cows have the most efficient energy intake. With the 3D cameras we will provide more objective monitoring of the cows, better feed efficiency per cow, improvements in daily operations and a more resource-efficient production

Jan Lassen, MSc., PhD, and Senior Research Manager at VikingGenetics