Feedlot operators are constantly running through a cycle of market highs and lows. When cattle prices are down and feed prices are up, cutting feed costs and improving feed efficiency are top of the list for producers. It was out of one of those particularly tough times in 2011 that the industry began to look at the use of Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIR) as a way to cut feed costs. NIR Technology utilizes light outside the visible spectrum in analysis of given subject matter ( in this case feed ) combined with wet chemistry analysis of known subject matter ( things like barley or DDGs ) to develop a calibration curve by which producers can determine the nutrient quality of feedstuffs like barley or examine the digestibility of processed feed (through fecal analysis).
Dr Tim McAllister of Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada is a part of that project started in 2011 that continues to look into the use of NIR to lower feed costs for cattle producers. McAllister notes that the proper use of NIR in an operation does offer producers a worthwhile return through its ability, in some cases, to help producers source energy equivalent, cheaper feed sources or to pay based on feed quality of those sources or to monitor and adjust the efficiency of processed grain so less grain is wasted.
Interest in the technology brought producers and researchers together for a packed workshop in Lethbridge, Alberta to discuss the potential for NIR as well as some of the roadblocks to widespread adoption of the technology by producers. I spoke to Dr Tim McAllister at the workshop.