Near Infrared Reflectance spectroscopy, or NIR, is an effective and efficient method of analysis, used most commonly in the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries.  In the pharmaceutical world, NIR is used as more of a quality assurance method while in agriculture it is used to analyze the nutrients present in feed and forages. The way it works is infrared light is shown on the sample and the amount of light reflected by the sample is measured, providing information about the sample’s composition. In order to make sense of this information, NIR technology requires calibrations. These calibrations are developed by correlating data from traditional wet chemistry and combining it with NIR spectra for samples used as reference.

The Dairy One Forage Laboratory offers both wet chemistry and NIR analysis. Running both types of analyses on a high volume of samples has allowed Dairy One to establish a library of wet chemistry data matched with NIR spectra. The matched data is then used to develop calibrations for future sample analysis. This library of data, or calibrations, is essential to Dairy One’s NIR capabilities.

There are currently 31 instruments, owned by 23 labs throughout the world, that are licensed to use Dairy One NIR calibrations. A license to utilize Dairy One NIR calibrations allows these labs to operate independently while still having access to a library of calibrations that would otherwise require a large investment of time and money to establish.

Kaethe, Cassy, and Valerie

The relationship between Dairy One and these 23 affiliate labs is maintained by our NIR Network Administration Team. Cassy, Valerie, and Kaethe spend their days answering questions and offering trouble shooting support to labs all across the globe, including places like Russia, China, Japan, and Australia. The word of mouth success of these labs is what has allowed this network of affiliates to grow throughout the years. Labs interested in becoming licensed to use Dairy One NIR calibrations work with Valerie to fill out an affiliate application before they can be approved as a good fit for the affiliate program. Some of the factors that are taken into consideration during this vetting process are if the lab is functioning for research or business purposes, what their current or anticipated sample volume may be, and their location in relation to other affiliate labs.

For this group, one of the most interesting parts of working with international labs has been the differences in language and culture. They have become quite resourceful when it comes to communicating with labs whose primary language base is not English. Whether with the help of translator or technology, these ladies ensure that they are providing high quality customer service in any language.

Affiliate lab visit from Ghost Hollow Consulting

This communication is not always limited to e-mail and phone calls. Dairy One has hosted a number of affiliate lab visits in Ithaca, the most recent one being Ghost Hollow Consulting, a 10-year affiliate with instruments in Idaho and New Mexico. While Ghost Hollow is an American affiliate, many past affiliate visitors have been international. Cassy, Valerie, and Kaethe explained that through these visits, they have become very aware of the different formalities and idiosyncrasies of other cultures. From the way an e-mail is worded to how a business card is accepted, they are always conscious of how their actions will be perceived by our guests.

So how does one end up working as an NIR Network Administrator? Both Kaethe and Valerie began their Dairy One careers directly out of school. Kaethe started with Dairy One about a year ago after graduating with a degree in Biochemistry from SUNY Brockport. Valerie has been with Dairy One for almost 5 years and graduated from Clarkson University with a dual degree in Biomolecular Science and Chemistry. Cassy received her undergraduate degree in Animal Science from Cornell University and then continued her studies at Cornell to receive a M.S. in Animal Science with her research focusing on animal breeding and genetics. Prior to the 7 years she has spent at Dairy One, she worked at the Cornell Veterinary School assisting with Tuberculosis research.

This group brings an array of experience and education to their NIR nook at Dairy One, but they are uniform in the level of service and expertise they bring to our business. While affiliate labs don’t get assigned to just one person, Cassy, Valerie, and Kaethe each have a group of labs they work with most often. However, the communication between these three ladies ensures that everyone is on the same page and our customers always have access to customer service, regardless of who is available. This communication is what also allows for an atmosphere in which people are comfortable to ask questions, crack a joke, and sincerely enjoy doing their jobs.

Click here for more information about Dairy One’s Feed and Forage Analysis, NIR Services, or Affiliate Laboratories.