Improving Pig Feed Formulation with NIR Technology

The advent of new technologies has provided us with the opportunity to formulate feeds based on better information, and thus to enhance their value. At a time when feed production makes up 70% of variable animal production costs, such developments have real potential to optimise rations – and feed efficiency. Recent advances in Near Infrared Reflectance (NIR) equipment, for example, allow us to understand the variation both within and between raw materials more accurately, writes Dr Hadden Graham, Global Technical Director, AB Vista.
calendar icon 5 August 2016
clock icon 3 minute read

As well as better laboratory-based NIR equipment, we now have handheld NIR units that can be used in feed mills and on farms, and in-line equipment. There have also been advances in NIR software, such as the development of online calibrations.

A new technical services video from AB Vista shows how advances in NIR technology can help us understand the variability in raw materials and thus maximise profitability in three key areas of feed formulation: phytic P, energy and amino acids.

Phytic P, energy and amino acids

It is essential to know the phytic P content of a diet to decide how much phytase to add to maximise its value – and NIR technology can be used to measure this. While phytic P varies between different raw materials, it can also vary within a raw material. For example, in one swine study, the phytic P percentage varied from as low as 0.1% up to as high as 0.5%. If you have a phytase such as Quantum Blue, that can release up to 80% of this phytic P, that means you are releasing somewhere around just under 0.1% up to around 0.4%, which has a big effect on the economy of producing feeds.

A recent study showed that the energy value of different cereals can vary by around 1.5Mj; and about the same level of variation can be found within one feedstuff. With energy worth between €5 and €20 in feed, and more than 500 million tonnes of mono-gastric feed being produced per year, it is easy to see why the energy value of feed is so economically important.

In addition, heat damage can also affect the precision and cost effectiveness of diet formulation. As lysine is heat- processed, it loses its nutritional value – meaning that reactive lysine (a measure of available lysine after digestion) needs to be analysed. Analysis of around 300 samples of soy bean meal by AB Vista showed that reactive lysine accounted for up to 99% of the total lysine. However, the proportion of reactive lysine dropped considerably when the soy bean meal was processed, and so its nutritional value was much lower. This type of calibration is essential for making decisions about the source of soy bean meal; this information is available online via the AB Vista Feed Quality Service.


In order to maximise the opportunities of NIR, analysing a wide range of samples to understand the variation within and between samples from different sources is important. When you have that information, you can start to make economic decisions that will help you maximise your profitability. These subjects are covered in more detail in the online video.

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