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Finding The Fat In The Feed

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A year-old program to help Alberta livestock producers get a better handle on what s in their feed grain still has money to spend.

The Alberta Feeding Initiative Program was allocated $750,000 to purchase high-tech equipment that can measure nutrient content in feed grains. Since its launch in 2010, a dozen grants, worth up to $20,000, have been handed out to purchase near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) equipment.

It s about feed grain value & trying to determine a value that the market side of industry can accept and has a bearing on how the animal will perform, said Rob Hand of the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund, which is administering the program on behalf of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency.

This equipment is not cheap it s $40,000 to $70,000 for a piece of equipment, said Hand. It s not very big in the sense that it sits on your desk. It s expensive, but it does these wonderful things if it s calibrated properly.

Those wonderful things include analyzing all kinds of feed to determine its content.

Things like protein, starch, fibre, carbohydrate, lipid, all of the things within feed that we typically measure contain hydrogen-containing molecules, said Dr. Mary Lou Swift, an Alberta Agriculture research scientist with the Field Crop Development Centre.

It gives us a way of measuring the amount of those molecules in those substances.

Near infrared spectroscopy measures absorption of light energy by hydrogen-containing molecules and through proper calibration, can determine protein, lipids and carbohydrates levels in a feed sample.

Matthew May of Feedlot Health Management Services in Okotoks has one of the machines, as do nine of his feedlot clients.

It s just a network so that the feedlots are using their machines to scan the feedstuffs as they enter their feedlots and then we have access to that information with a network, said May. We would do 48 to 60 research trials a year and then, based on the outcomes of those trials, that information would be used to progress the clients that we work with.

The network was suggested by one of his company s feedlot clients, who was using the technology to analyze barley.

And they said, We re only getting a small piece of all of the barley that s actually coming into feedlots, so we d like to involve additional feedlots and cover a greater geographical region, May said.

Collecting this data could help the livestock sector in several ways.

It could be grain growers who want to determine the value of the grain, as a group or individually. It could be feedlots and in fact, feedlots have made applications for the NIRS grants, said Hand.

Another group that is possibly interested in this is the feed manufacturers. They could be the companies that are in the business of buying grain, processing it, mixing it, and selling that feed back to the farm industry.

The nutritional content of feed grains can vary particularly in dried distiller grains solubles, and if feedlots were able to ascertain the fat value of a shipment, price could be determined on that basis.

There is enough volume of product that s used that the purchase of NIRS equipment could save significant dollars, said Hand, adding the hog industry, which buys a lot of feed, can also benefit from the technology.

Underwriting the purchase of NIRS equipment is one of three aims of the Alberta Feeding Initiative Program. It is also studying feed utilization, and innovation in breeding as it pertains to feed grains.

Moreinformationontheprogramcanbefoundat http://www.acidf.ca/feeding.

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It sexpensive,butitdoesthesewonderfulthingsifit scalibratedproperly.

ROB HAND

ALBERTA CROP INDUSTRY

DEVELOPMENT FUND

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