Blackland Research & Extension Center
720 E. Blackland Road
Temple, TX 76502-9622
8am - 5pm Central, Weekdays
In 1987 the Ranching System Group of what is now the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management of Texas A&M University began its first work on the technologies that are now the foundation of the Grazingland Animal Nutrition Lab capabilities. Originally a research-based operation to study animal nutrition and grazing behavior, our focus centered on developing a means to monitor range conditions utilizing fecal profiling via NIRS (near infrared reflectance spectroscopy) analysis. The concept was developed to utilize the selective behavior of grazing animals to "havest" forage in a native rangeland instead of people, thus greatly reducing the cost of field sampling. The “end result” of that forage (manure, a.k.a. fecal sample) would then be collected and scanned using NIRS machines to capture the spectra of the fecal chemistry. Our calibration equations, developed through many years of research, are then applied to the fecal sample’s spectra to generate dietary crude protein (%CP), digestible organic matter (%DOM), fecal phosphorus, and fecal nitrogen results. These results in essence put a "feed tag" on the pasture the animal is grazing. For more information regarding equation development visit the NIRS Technology page.
While the intent was to develop a non-invasive tool for range research, its potential benefits to the private sector soon became came evident during ranch trials conducted in the early 1990’s to develop and test the first cattle equations published in 1992 by Drs. Jerry Stuth and Robert Lyons. The success of the first equations led to the opening of the GAN Lab to offer services to livestock managers nationwide. After the completion of the cattle equations, our research turn to developing diet quality equations for goats, white-tailed deer, sheep, elk and equine.
To further utilized the NIRS results, we developed a nutritional balance profile (NUTBAL) software program first released in DOS in 1995. In 1999, the Windows version of NUTBAL Pro was released. The current version 1.0.1 includes many updates and improvements since the first release. NUTBAL’s primary challenge is to provide the livestock industry with the means to monitor the nutrient concentration in the animal’s diet and determine if the current diet is sufficient to meet performance goals set by the producer. This decision support software generates reports describing animal performance and least-cost feed solutions based on the lab’s NIRS results and the livestock producer’s case information. These two technologies came together to form the NIRS/NUTBAL system for monitoring the nutritional status of grazing animals which has been in use in the U.S. and abroad for nearly 20 years. For more information on the NUTBAL software visit the NUTBAL page.
Since 1999, we have expanded the use of NIRS technology for fecal profiling by establishing new labs in East Africa, South America, Mongolia, and Afghanistan through World Bank and USAID grants. In addition to the the fecal profiling, our research has included soil analysis (carbon) as well as wool and fiber grading. This new array of diagnostic tools would offer livestock producers, consultants, wildlife managers, and researchers a noninvasive means of monitoring grazing animals, as well as rangelands and grasslands.