ISA Special Feed Quality Alert #13 — Why Having Your Soybeans Analyzed for Livestock Feed Value Matters
Unlock the Nutritional Secrets of Your Soybeans and Help Protect Your Market
Most soybean producers can effortlessly rattle off yield histories of specific fields, but fewer farmers can do the same regarding the equally important quality of their soybeans. Fortunately, that information is now easy to come by at no cost to the producer.
Knowing the quality value of your soybeans doesn’t just mean having a handle on yield, protein and oil. It also includes knowing the levels of seven essential amino acids that -- more than anything else -- determine true livestock feed value and drive market demand. Since livestock consume 70 percent of the U.S. soybean crop – and soybean inclusion rates in swine feed have dropped 70 percent since 1990 – it has never been more important that farmers know the feed value of their soybeans. And, take action to maximize their value.
The High Yield PLUS Quality (HY+Q) initiative is a checkoff-funded Illinois Soybean Association program that analyzed six years of data provided by the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and the United Soybean Board (USB). USSEC manages and funds a sampling program that provides farmers with variety-specific livestock feed value scores based on HY+Q analysis of harvest samples by the University of Minnesota and cross checking of the data by the University of Missouri.
“We need to get farmers thinking about quality instead of just bushels per acre,” says Jim Sutter, CEO at USSEC. “Sending in soybean samples for nutritional analysis and choosing soybean varieties with livestock feed values in mind are critical components to making sure that U.S. soybeans can compete in the global marketplace and meet the domestic and international demands of livestock producers.”
The sampling program started with USSEC about 25 years ago when soybean buyers in Japan began requesting information on quality. Other countries in northern Asia, such as Korea, China and Taiwan, followed suit. “We aren’t currently shipping a lot of soybeans to China due to tariff issues, but that makes it all the more important that we sell more soybeans to these other countries to take up the slack,” Sutter says.
USSEC received 4,000 soybean samples for analysis in 2018, after sending 5,700 sample kits to U.S. producers, 1,000 kits to Qualified State Soybean Boards (QSSBs), and 1,900 to seed companies. “We should see a healthy increase in participants after the 2019 harvest compared to last year,” he adds. “This sampling program is unique to the soybean industry, and we have more farmers and agribusinesses send in samples every year.”
Last year, soybean producers in 29 states sent harvest samples to USSEC. The sampling program goal is for soybean producers in every state that produces soybeans to participate. Both the program – and the science behind it – have evolved over the years. Most importantly, it is now possible to zero-in on the seven essential amino acids that drive livestock nutrition.
Soybean producer and former ISA director Don Guinnip farms near Marshall, Ill., in Clark County in the Wabash River valley. He routinely sends harvest samples in for nutritional analysis through the ISA HY+Q program, and he has done so for the last seven years. This includes samples from both full-season and double-cropped soybeans. Guinnip also manages a herd of beef cattle, so he is especially tuned into livestock nutritional needs.
“I try to be a responsible soybean grower, and we need to do everything we can to please our livestock customers,” Guinnip says. “Knowing the nutritional composition of my soybeans is very important to me. I want to know protein content, oil yield and amino acid profiles of the soybeans I’m growing. I want a history of that information so I can make better soybean variety selections and also have field-by-field comparisons of how those varieties perform.”
Guinnip says he often lays out the sample results cards that he receives from the University of Minnesota and studies them, making year-to-year and field-to-field comparisons. “I am building a database of this information which is useful to me,” says the farmer, who routinely spreads his risk by planting early-group 3, mid-group 3 and early-group 4 soybeans. “This type of data needs to be in seed catalogs, but it isn’t.”
The HY+Q program offers farmers a database of 768 soybean varieties with rankings based on the amino acids used by livestock nutritionists to calculate rations. This varietal information can be accessed at soyvalue.com. Order a test kit for sampling at this site and receive a personal report on livestock feed value for your submitted samples.
The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff and membership programs represent more than 43,000 soybean growers in Illinois. The checkoff funds market development, soybean innovation and profitability efforts, issues analysis, communications and education. Membership and advocacy efforts support Illinois soybean farmer interests in local areas, Springfield and Washington, D.C. through the Illinois Soybean Growers. ISA programs are designed to ensure Illinois soy is the highest quality, most dependable, sustainable and competitive in the global marketplace. For more information, visit the website www.ilsoy.org.