Feed Testing: Wet Chemistry & NIR

Knowing all the major components and characteristics of your feeds offers distinct advantages to optimize feeding. There are two ways that forages are analyzed for nutrient content: Wet Chemistry and NIR.

Wet chemistry uses established laboratory tests to quantify protein, fiber, fat, and minerals when precise levels are needed. Since minerals are small, they are more difficult to measure with the NIR. NIR (Near Infrared Reflectance spectroscopy) has been perfected to quickly, economically, and accurately measure nutrient content without destroying the sample.

NIR technology uses light reflectance and works best with large compounds such as those that make up protein and fiber. The NIR instrument is calibrated to wet chemistry, which is the standard. In terms of forage, most can be analyzed with NIR, but unique forages may not be appropriately analyzed via this method because no calibration set is available to standardize the equipment.

Similarly, total mixed rations can be difficult with NIR because the composition of the mix can vary greatly from farm to farm. In these cases, wet chemistry would be used to ensure the best results.