An international platform for rapid analysis of livestock feed quality (with nodes in India, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Burkina Faso)

Estimation of nutritional value of livestock feeds is essential for improving animal productivity. Assessing feed quality is best achieved by feeding animals under controlled conditions and measuring livestock gain or milk yield. However, livestock feeding trials are expensive and time consuming. The next best option is to use “wet chemistry”, in other words to use conventional laboratory analysis to measure key metrics such as digestibility and nitrogen concentrations. But this is also time consuming and requires infrastructure and trained lab personal. In this context Near-infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS) is a useful tool to estimate feed quality cheaply and rapidly.  While a small conventional feed lab might analyse 50 feed samples a month, with NIRS it would be feasible to predict feed quality of about 3000 samples over the same period. NIRS is a promising technology in crop improvement programmes for quick screening of large numbers of samples in a short time for quality traits. It works on the principle of correlating optical spectral signatures with physico-chemical properties of the sample matrix. NIRS is used globally in feed evaluation studies and for rapid crop improvement/ breeding programs. 

ILRI NIRS capability

ILRI uses a range of desktop FOSS NIRS instruments including the Forage Analyzer 5000, 6500 and XDS (the latest is the FOSS DS 2500) machines with the WinISI-II & IV software package. ILRI is also experimenting with use of mobile hand-held (Phazir/Brimrose) and pocket type (TellSpec/SCiO) NIRS machines for prediction of nutritional value of feeds on site. The nutritional parameters estimated are dry matter content (DM,%), ash content (%), crude protein (CP, %), neutral detergent fiber, (NDF, %), acid detergent fiber, (ADF, %), acid detergent lignin, (ADL, %), in vitro organic matter digestibility (IVOMD, %) and metabolizable energy (ME, MJ/kg dm). ILRI has also developed equations to estimate minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and antinutritional factors such as tannins, phenols and HCN. After scanning ground samples (1 mm mesh size) for their NIR spectra, calibration validation procedures are developed.  Generally, half of a given set of samples is used for developing a calibration model with the reference chemical data generated by laboratory analysis. NIRS calibration equations are validated by predicting laboratory analysis of the second half of actually measured values (blind predictions). Agreement between NIRS predicted and actually measured laboratory values is assessed by the coefficient of determination (R2) and standard error of validation. Outlier samples are re-analyzed.  

Globally, anyone having any FOSS NIRS machine with WinISI calibration software can make use of more than 70 global equations developed by ILRI by standardising their machine with ILRI’s Master NIRS at ILRI, Hyderabad, India.


ILRI NIRS Calibration Equations

ILRI has developed over 80 NIRS calibration equations for different feed types and different constituents. These equations are available for sharing on request and on condition that they are properly acknowledged in any resulting outputs. A list of calibration equations is provided here.

Frequently asked questions

What ILRI Global equations are available for different types of feeds and forages

The list of food-feed-forage calibrations is available here[DA(1] . The host machines are standardized to the ILRI Master NIRS instrument in Hyderabad as per Standard protocols. Any use of these equations requires appropriate attribution and acknowledgement that the equations were developed by ILRI

How can I standardise my FOSS NIRS machine with the ILRI Master NIRS instrument?

There is a standard operating procedure (SOP) for FOSS NIRS standardization and this must be applied at the collaborator’s host machine by the ILRI NIRS team. An alternative is that collaborators can share their unstandardized spectra with ILRI and request that ILRI staff return the predicted nutritive values.

Can we standardise non-FOSS NIRS machine with the ILRI Master NIRS instrument?

No, the only real option in this case is to exchange physical/standard samples with known reference chemistries and to build non-FOSS calibrations for that particular NIRS instrument. ILRI can offer to share physical samples with known reference chemistries for developing calibrations at the collaborator’s NIRS laboratory.

How is standardisation of handheld NIRS instruments achieved?

ILRI is working on developing the use of hand-held NIRS instruments for use in the field. The ultimate aim is to achieve the prediction accuracy of hand-held NIRS on a par with conventional wet laboratory results to facilitate use of hand-held NIRS results for ration formulation purposes in the livestock sector. Please contact us for further details

List of partner organisations that use ILRI equations

Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles du Burkina Faso (INERA)
Country Coordinator for EQUIP Project

Contact persons: Dr. Nouhoun Zampaligré
Burkina Faso

Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research; Holetta
Contact person: Dr. Mesfin Dejene

Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture Research (EIAR) Food Science and Nutrition Research Directorate (FSNRD)
Contact persons: Dr. Kassaye Tolessa

Bless Agri Food Laboratory Services PLC
Contact persons: Mr. Kaleelias  Agmuas

Veterinary Drug and Animal Feed Administration and Control Authority of Ethiopia
Contact persons: Dr. Fanuel F/Mariam

International Livestock Research Institute, C/o IITA, Ibadan
Contact person: Dr. Amole Tunde

International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Beirut, Lebanon
Contact persons: Dr. Jane Wamatu

International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT, Patancheru)
Contact person : Dr. Sunita Choudary

International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT, Patancheru)
Contact person : Dr. P. Janila

International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) South Asia Hub
Contact person: Dr. Vikas Kumar Singh



Research on use of NIRS at ILRI has been supported by numerous projects and programmes.

Recent research was supported by:

  • the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and is supported by contributors to the CGIAR Trust Fund. CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. Its science is carried out by 15 Research Centers in close collaboration with hundreds of partners across the globe.
  • EQUIP - Strengthening smallholder livestock systems for the future, a project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Food Security as part of Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems. Additional funding was received from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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