Feed autonomy regarding concentrates and fodder
Feed autonomy on a farm is assessed through the balance between feed (fodder, grains, cakes, etc) production on the farm and feed consumption by livestock (in dry matter, energy, or protein units) to achieve a production objective and socio-economic goals (labour, production costs) targeted by the farmer. Developing autonomy amounts to limiting the use of feed inputs by maximizing the interactions between the land and the herd, and by making the best possible use of the feed resources (fodder, grains) produced on the farm. It is an agro-ecological objective aimed at improving the agronomic, ecological and economic performances of the farm. Autonomy is not an indicator of the efficiency of livestock systems but a component of their robustness against hazards. Aiming for feed autonomy is a strategy to manage economic and climatic risks. Feed autonomy can be subdivided into two elements: autonomy for fodder and autonomy for concentrates.
Autonomy for fodder is assessed through the ratio between the roughages (green fodder, dehydrated fodder, straw and fibrous by-products from the food industry) produced on the farm and consumed by the herd, over the total amount of roughages consumed by the herd (in dry matter, energy, or protein units). Autonomy for fodder can be managed by adjusting the level of intensification of the land use for feed production (optimization of nitrogen fertilization, use of catch crops …) or by readjusting of the interactions between the land and the herd (reduction of the stocking rate, improvement of grazing practices, better matching of fodder consumption periods and fodder production periods …).
Autonomy for concentrates is assessed through the ratio between the concentrates produced on the farm (feed rich in energy, proteins, or vitamins, distributed to animals in addition to roughages to complement and balance these roughages) and the total amount of concentrates consumed by the herd (in dry matter, energy or protein units). Autonomy in concentrates aims at limiting production costs and improving traceability of the feed distributed to livestock. Achieving autonomy in concentrates can require specific equipment (storage cells, flatteners …). This autonomy depends on the suitability of the land for cropping, on its production potential, on the roughages distributed with the concentrates, and on livestock productivity.
References to explore
T. Lebacq, P. V. Baret, D. Stilmant. 2015. Role of input self-sufficiency in the economic and environmental sustainability of specialised dairy farm. Animal.Volume 9, Numéro 3 – Mars 2015 , pp. 544-552. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1751731114002845