NIRS networks help livestock farmers get more value from feed grains

NIRS workshops at the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund Ltd. in Lacombe and Lethbridge, Alberta Canada, delivered a strong message– “It has never cost more to feed a pig (or anything else), and what are the key limitations to using NIR?”

The singular answer from the audience was “training and education.” Side discussions regarding the use of in-line NIR concluded that In-line NIR technology is effective in reducing process variation and reducing sampling error which is generally much larger than instrument error. This suggests there is still more opportunity for improving grain utilization and minimizing labor. New in-line applications using the multiplexing Bruker FT-NIR were discussed at the Bruker booth.

Getting more from feed grains
“The idea behind building NIRS networks is to get more value from feed grains,” said Rob Hand, ACIDF’s manager of feeding initiatives.
Dr. Mary Lou Swift, network manager for NIRS in feedlots, emphasized the technical realities of NIR. “NIRS accuracy depends on use of good methods and good labs,” she said. “Following good protocols and using suitable support resources is essential for good results.”

Calibration and NIR
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the increasing value in using NIR. Expensive feed ingredients like corn and a desire to properly value each batch of animal feed is driving this trend. According to Dr. Ruurd Zijlstra of the University of Alberta, a R2 correlation of only 0.14-bushel weight is a poor indicator of digestible energy.
Dr. Zijlistra explained the differences in energy measurements: GE, DE, ME and NE. He identifies digestible energy as a good place to start, as it gives better information than simple gross energy and it varies by 20% in cereal grains such as wheat and barley. Metabolizable energy is phenotype dependent and is more subjective than DE. Energy of animal feces can be used in quantifying DE, while energy of urine and gases are measured to arrive at ME.
An increasing focus on net energy, a more refined measure of energy, takes into account heat increments. This measurement is much more involved, but increasingly important as alternative feed ingredients and sources are being used in formulating animal feed. NE determination requires knowing DE and information about starch, protein, fat and fiber— making NIR more important.

NIR properly measures inputs
Economist Ron Gietz, pork specialist at the livestock business development branch, delivered a high-level message on the influence of feed ingredient stocks on feed ingredient prices. Cutting back on nutrient density or cheapening livestock feed can give a false economy when the bigger picture of animal performance is considered. This is an often-repeated economic theme when ingredient prices rise. This reinforces the fact that it is important to measure your inputs with NIR and stick with proper standards to ensure optimum results.

NIR feed strategies
Special Guest Speaker, Geoff Smith, technical support director of Market 1, a subsidiary of DFS in Newell, IA, explained that owner David L. Kier has a passion for knowledge. DFS has worked hard on operation efficiency for the sake of superior production and cost performance. Of the possible NIR strategies, Geoff gives a top rating to claim support, which in turn supports sourcing of feed ingredients.
Using a highly integrated web-based system called DataMaster, Geoff can quickly and easily generate a snap-shot run chart on a given supplier. Filing claims helps ensure feed ingredient quality and directly sustains his QA program. He also commented that NIR is valuable for diet formulation and ensuring finished feeds are compliant with specifications.
After making a significant investment in data management, Geoff sees an opportunity to increase NIR throughput and make even greater use of NIR results.

By Howard Eubanks – Bruker Business Development Manager – Feed and Grain.