NIRS may help predict metabolizable energy

Advancements in feed analysis by NIRS set to deliver greater benefits to feed formulation.

New developments in near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) technology are unlocking greater insights for the feed industry, which should mean improved returns for producers.

While NIRS has been used in traditional "proximate analysis" for some time to measure components such as fiber, protein and moisture, this has recently been extended to include in vivo metabolizable energy measurements, reactive lysine and phytic phosphorus.

Dr. Sophie Parker-Norman, global technical manager at AB Vista, said this pioneering approach has far-reaching implications for the industry.

“Any deviation from target feed formulation specification translates directly into economic losses, through higher feed costs or lower animal performance. At a time when feed production makes up 70% of variable animal production costs, utilizing NIRS to measure metabolizable energy, reactive lysine and the phytic phosphorus content of feedstuffs has real potential to better support supplier selection, optimize rations and improve feed efficiency,” Parker-Norman said.

She added that the comprehensive measurements can bring significant improvements to the accuracy, quality and sustainability of feed production.

“The use of NIRS beyond proximate analysis looks set to benefit the industry as a whole, providing valuable insights for those involved in feed milling and quality control as well as nutrition and animal production,” she said.

Measuring the levels of metabolizable energy, reactive lysine and phytic phosphorus will enable more accurate decisions to be made about feed formulation, particularly because there is significant potential for variation in these components, Parker-Norman said.

“The energy value of different cereals can vary by 1.5 MJ/kg. With this worth between 5 and 25 euros per metric ton of feed and 500 million mt of feed produced per year, measuring metabolizable energy using NIRS is economically important," she explained. "Heat damage of proteins can also affect the precision and cost-effectiveness of feed formulation. NIRS can be used to measure the reactive lysine content of protein meals — an assessment of heat damage obtained during processing as well as an indication of the usable protein content of feedstuffs. Finally, phytic phosphorus varies between different feedstuffs and within a single raw material, and it is an important figure to know when deciding how much phytase to add to feeds. NIRS technology can analyze that content, giving the nutritionist better control and confidence that there is enough substrate for the enzyme to act on.”

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