Elmo and Heloise do Val of NutriCattle consultants in Brazil describe their use of NIR and look forward to doing more tests on-site at their customers for rapid feed evaluation and formulation.
How long have you been using NIR and what are the main advantages compared with what you had before?
From 2000 to 2008 we used NIR technology for ruminant feed formulation. We have just recently purchased a new generation NIR for our new feed plant. We still use “traditional analyses” (chemical and gas), because there are still some parameters we need to include in our calibrations.
We see many advantages compared with other types of analysis. The most important is the speed of results. Nowadays we can’t waste time, we want to ensure that right information is on hand quickly!
How are you using NIR in practice?
We have acquired a small, resistant and portable NIR instrument, which we can carry by car for use when visiting customers. It will be great to visit the customer, analyze feed rations or ingredients and formulate or change ration on time! At this moment we are not using it “on site” but in the near future we will be.
NIR technology helps us, by presenting quickly various parameters of a same sample of raw material so that you can reformulate according to the quality of materials available at that time on the farm.
What practical challenges are involved?
Our biggest practical challenge is to evaluate if the ration that is formulated is actually what is being put in the feed trough. For example, in feedlots, you might create a feed formula, it is mixed, and the cattle consume that ration, but you do not have the expected results at the end of the cycle.
There is always the question: “Did I make a mistake in formulation or is there a problem with the feed ingredients?” With ‘on-site’ formulation those questions can be answered in real time and rapidly corrected.
What do the farmers say?
I think farmers are much more aware nowadays of the importance of feed and ingredient analysis for ration formulation. They are aware of how much it affects on performance, and mainly on profitability
Farmers are accepting NIR technology as an added service that we as consultants offer to them.
What are the practical benefits when using NIR to reduce nutrient variability in compound feed rations and feed cost?
Firstly, it is what we call “from the gate out”, where selected suppliers can receive only high quality raw materials or pay according to the quality of raw materials that they receive,
Secondly,”from the gate in”. Here you know in real time exactly what you have on hand and can reformulate accordingly without having to wait 10-15 days for wet laboratory results.
How can NIR give you a competitive advantage in the Brazilian market?
Today, consultants visit the property, collect samples, send them to a wet chemistry lab and then 10-15 days later they return and reformulate or adjust the feed formula.
Our biggest advantage is being able to make one visit, collect samples, analyze them in real time and have the results in hand to reformulate according to ingredients available at that time. This way the customer does not lose time and money feeding a compound feed that is out of specifications.