Special Alert #7 Does Soybean Feed Value Meet Livestock Customer Needs?
What Do Livestock Customers Expect from U.S. Soybeans?
The facts about soybean nutritional value uncovered by the Illinois Soybean Association’s checkoff-funded High Yield PLUS Quality (HY+Q) program are troubling.
Swine and poultry producers consume nearly 70 percent of U.S. soybean meal, yet livestock producers use less soybean meal per ton of feed today than even 10 years ago—and a lot less than 30 years ago. For example, soybean meal in swine rations has decreased 70 percent since 1990, according to leading livestock nutritionists.
The HY+Q program dug deeper into the reason behind this alarming trend, going directly to livestock nutritionists and producers for answers.
Three major factors were highlighted as reasons why livestock feed inclusion rates have fallen to where they are today:
- Decline in soybean meal feeding value due to focus on traits other than amino acids/quality
- Availability of other natural amino acid feed ingredients, namely dried distillers’ grains with solubles (DDGS)
- Introduction and rapid adoption of synthetic amino acids
In other words, soybean meal—while highly esteemed as an excellent feed ingredient—isn’t exactly delivering as much of the amino acids livestock customers need it to deliver.
“We routinely analyze nutrient concentration of soybean meal sources we use in our feed and keep a database that is used to make purchasing decisions based on quality and our ability to capitalize on the components of the product and improve our cost of production,” explains Dr. Omarh Mendoza, director of nutrition for The Maschhoffs. “We have observed a downward trend in the quality of soybean meal over the years. It’s become concerning.”
Dr. R. Dean Boyd, Technical Director Emeritus, Hanor Company and Triumph Foods Group; Adjunct Professor of Animal Nutrition at North Carolina State University and Iowa State University, shares similar findings.
“We sample and measure protein and amino acids,” he says. “In 2017, the average protein was 46.2 percent, but it ranged from 48.6 percent to 43.6 percent. Digestible lysine was also variable, ranging from 3.04 percent to 2.68 percent. This difference at the lower end of soybean protein (based on amino acids) has a lesser value of about $15/ton of complete feed than the soybean meal at the higher end.
“As swine feeders, we know the difference in value by soybean processing plant and prioritize sourcing our loads from the facility with greatest-value meal,” Dr. Boyd adds.
As soybean quality slowly sank over the years, livestock producers and nutritionists found substitute ingredients to maintain animal needs and meet target dietary amino acid levels at the lowest cost. It became more economically efficient to maintain animal productivity through the inclusion of other feed ingredients and synthetic amino acid sources.
“I’m a recipient of what’s coming out of the processing plant. I have the ability—and obligation to sort through available amino acid options for the ration I’m building as I determine which source to utilize,” explains Dr. Bart Borg, director of nutrition for Standard Nutrition Services. “In the end, it comes down to the cost of the ingredients that supply the amino acids our pigs need.”
Ultimately, quality is defined by your customer. “We ask our packers—our customers—what they need and want, then work to deliver to these specifications,” says Dr. Mendoza. “It takes everyone working together. It should be no different for soybean producers or any other industry.” All things considered, the value chain should deliver the quality customers want.
It’s possible for soybean producers to take action to protect market share. To learn more about how to increase the quality of the soybeans you grow, visit Soyvalue.com, for a list of varieties that historically deliver maximum soybean value.
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.