Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) in catfish farming is the percentage quantity of feed consumed by a given number of catfishes that is converted into body weight (flesh and bone) for human consumption. FCR is the basis of all feed formulations because feeds are compounded to support profitable and healthy growth of catfishes. It is an established fact that catfishes are sold based on weight in most parts of West Africa. Therefore, feed must be formulated in such a way that it will promote the growth and weight of the table size fish.
Also, the profitability of any livestock business investment depends solely on how well feed can be converted into general body weight. This assertion is based on the premise that feed converted into flesh is always cheaper than the value of flesh produced. A farmer should bear in mind that feed is not just produced for production sake but to meet certain nutritional needs of our livestock. In other words, some feeds are not of much benefit to catfishes that consume them. For you to compound feed that will convert well and also be cost effective, you must understand the nutritional need of your stock at all times. It does not make economic sense to use more than the needed protein in a feed because excess protein will be converted to other needs in feed.
Mathematically, FCR can be express as feed consumption divided by weight gained.
Feed consumption (kg)/Weight gained (kg) =FCR
For instance, if a stock of 1000 pieces of catfish consume 1800 kg of feed in five months and a total of 1200 kg of catfish is sold from them, FCR will be calculated as: 1800/1200 = 1.5
This result means 1.5 kg of feed gives 1 kg of catfish. It can be expressed in ratio i.e. F1: F2 (Feed consumed ratio Feed Converted). The above example could be express in ratio as: 1.5: 1
Note: the lower the FCR, the better the feed performance and vice versa. Cost benefit of feed must also be given a due consideration. For example, feed that cost #500 (around $2.5) per kg with FRC of 1:1 is less cost effective as feed that cost #200 ($1) with FCR of 2:1. It is not always about better conversion ratio but about conversion ratio versus cost of feed.
Catfish farmer should observe the performance of their feeds for at least three seasons to determine feeds/formulas that pay better in terms of performance. This will help them to create a standard feeding system for their farms. However, certain factors can affect FCR of feed and turn producer of feeds to liars due to poor performance below manufacturer recommendation. Some of these factors are:
- Stocking Density: I have said it many times that when the stocking density exceeds the carriage capacity of a pond, the result will manifest in poor growth irrespective of feed and seed quality. FCR works with better condition of water environment. Moderate stocking density will enhance better feed performance.
- Feed Quality: Quality of feed depends largely on how well a given feed can meet the nutritional need of stocks that will consume it. In catfish farming, the quality of feed ingredients as well as types of ingredient used in feed formulation will go a long way to influence how feed will be converted to flesh. For instance, plant and animal protein must be skillfully combined to make good catfish feed. I wonder how feed that is made up of plant protein only can give a desired conversion performance. No matter the percentage of crude protein in it, it might not still perform like feed that balance plant and animal proteins. I can conclude on this note by saying that the higher the feed quality, the better the FCR and vice versa.
- Feeding Pattern: Feeding in catfish could be likened to building a wall that must not stop until completion. If you stop it half way, you are invariably pulling down what has been built. Irregular and inconsistent feeding pattern can negatively affect FCR of your stock. Even if all other conditions are right but fishes are not fed as at when due, a farmer should not expect any fantastic result at the end of the season. Maintaining a good feeding culture in catfish farming is a key factor that influences good success rate.
- Water Quality: The condition of catfish water environment has a great impact on FCR. An excellent water environment will promote an outstanding feed/conversion performance in catfish farming. You can give it a trial this season; make sure you maintain a quality water environment for your stock and see how this could work magic in feed/flesh conversion. At the end of the season, calculate the quantity of feed that give your total output. You will notice a great improvement.
- Disease/Mortality: By making sure that your stock is protected against diseases and infections, you are indirectly promoting the performance of your stock. The number of fishes that died in your stock reduces FCR of your fishes. This is due to simple logic that the feed consumed by dead fishes will not be deducted from total feed consumed when FCR is being calculated. Also diseases and mortality will alter a stable feeding program. See number 3 above.
- Breed and quality of breeding: Performance of different kind of breeds is not the same under a given condition. Some breeds perform better than others. Apart from catfish breed, the quality of breed determines the overall performance of any stock. You can read more in my article on seed.
- Weather/Variation in Season: Variation in atmospheric condition affects water temperature, water quality and water pathogen level. Catfish converts better in warm temperature. However, feed conversion ratio could drop during a period of intense cold because catfishes need more energy to maintain a normal body temperature. The energy used in maintaining body temperature could have been added to body weight.
- Natural Water Nutrients: This supports healthy growth of fishes in natural water and earthen pond. This is one of the reasons catfishes perform better in earthen ponds especially when fishes are subjected to same treatment in both earthen and concrete ponds. Availability of water plants and other living organism in earthen ponds is always a plus to the system.
- General Management Control: Factors such as security, theft control, pollution control, waste control, etc can enhance feed performance.
All things being equal, if a catfish farmer can take control of some of the factors mentioned above, he can be sure of certain benefits of knowledge of FCR like:
- Farmers can accurately predict the cost of production of certain number of stock under a prevailing market system.
- When there is up-to-date records on catfish feed consumption, knowledge of FCR will help in precise prediction of harvest expected. This could help in writing of business proposal in catfish farming business. It can also help farmer in taking a major decision related to loan and repayment.
- Profit can be determined based on prevailing market rate.
- Sizes of fishes can be determined without test cropping
- Help farmers in decision making on performance of certain breeds and feeds.
- It helps a catfish farmer to manage his farms from proxy because he knows what to expect after consumption of certain kilograms of feeds.
- It can also help in feed formula standardization.