The NIRS Task 3 project evaluated and demonstrated the commercial role and value of near infrared reflectance spectroscopy analysis of fresh faecal samples (F.NIRS) as a tool for beef cattle producers to improve the nutritional management of their herds. Cattle producers from 151 properties participated in a study evaluating the use of F.NIRS to monitor the seasonal diet quality of their cattle across 119 land types in Queensland and the Northern Territory. F.NIRS proved a useful tool to help producers better understand and respond to seasonal changes in the diet quality of grazing cattle. The main diet parameters analysed and evaluated were predicted crude protein, digestibility, faecal nitrogen and non-grass proportion. Daily liveweight gain was also predicted. This information assisted producers to make more informed management decisions regarding supplementary feeding, pasture management and adjusting stock numbers.
These results were supported by an opinions survey of the project co-operators. The project identified limitations of the technology. Further research is needed on land types where there is a significant proportion of browse, such as in mulga woodlands, and where there is winter herbage, legumes or forage crops grazed with grass-based pastures. We recommend MLA and the beef industry support the continued development and extension of the technology. The project highlights the need for ongoing promotion of the technology and for training both producers and those involved in the interpretation of F.NIRS results so the best herd nutritional management outcomes are achieved.