ISA Special Alert #9 Customer Insight: Soybean Growers Must Work to Improve Quality
Time is the Enemy; Livestock Customer Urges Soybean Industry Action on Soybean Quality Improvements
Livestock feed customers are seeing steady declines in soybean quality and livestock feed inclusion rates, and protecting markets depends on soybean farmers taking action now. The Illinois Soybean Association’s checkoff-funded High Yield + Quality (HY+Q) program is shedding light on this challenge and steering farmers to varieties capable of producing higher quality soybean meal that can better compete with synthetic amino acids and DDGS.
Nowhere is this challenge more apparent than in the swine industry, which along with poultry, consumes nearly 70 percent of U.S. soybeans in its feed rations.
The 30-year quality decline is actually an open secret among livestock nutritionists.
“Nutritionists already know about soybean quality issues,” notes 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.
He adds, “We know that the feeding limitations are due to this reduction in quality. We know soybean quality by processing plant and growing region. We are tasked with knowing this to be able to efficiently and economically rear pigs.”
It has been highlighted throughout this email series, this quality decline, along with increasing competition from synthetic amino acid sources and other feed ingredients, have created stiff headwinds for soybean meal inclusion rates.
To put a finer point on the situation, Dr. Boyd paints a stark picture of how the Hanor Company amended its soybean meal inclusion downward between 2000—2010 for its 65,000 sows (90,000 today).
“We reduced our total soybean meal use by about 1,800 semi-loads of meal per year from 2000 to 2008. Mirroring the overall swine industry trend, the organization further dropped soybean meal purchases by 4,500 semi-loads per year between 2008 and 2010,” explains Dr. Boyd.
The Time is Now
While he concedes this is a difficult message for soybean growers to hear, he suggests that there are, indeed, opportunities for success ahead, provided the industry acts now to prevent further market erosion and build stronger demand by key customers and end-users.
The greater the ability of the soybean industry to work together— from seed companies to producers to processors and marketers—the more success it will achieve in this market-protecting endeavor.
Fortunately, part of the solution is already in place. As demonstrated by the HY+Q program, specific soybean varieties can deliver higher amino acid content and improved feed value.
Livestock research offers another positive opportunity for the future of soybeans. Research demonstrates that soybeans show significant promise as a healthful nutritional partner of end-users. This arena underscores an exciting new market hunger for soybean meal and the previously unexplained, but tangible, health benefits it provides.
For instance, it’s known that slightly less than 50 percent of soybean meal is made up of protein (amino acids). A significant amount of the remaining 50 percent is comprised of carbohydrates used for energy.
There are, however, other health-promoting components (Isoflavones, sapponins, phenolic antioxidant molecules) in soybeans, Dr. Boyd explains.
“This is most appreciated in human nutrition, and research by Hanor Company shows that pigs benefit from elevated soybean meal during illness (e.g. flu),” he says. “In other words, high levels of synthetic amino acids compromise growth and feed conversion.”
Research conducted at the University of Illinois shows that soybean meal also helps to minimize the effects of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus in weaned pigs, too.
“Recently, we learned that diets having high amounts of DDGS and synthetic amino acids at the expense of soybean meal compromise animal growth,” adds Dr. Boyd. He notes that more developments, as well as university and proprietary research results on this topic, are forthcoming.
“I envision that soybean meal will prove to be a helpful swine health-promoting component when therapeutic antibiotics are needed for non-enteric (non-intestinal) disease,” he says. “I expect that soybean meal has growth-promoting properties that are not appreciated until diet content is driven to relatively low levels.”
These findings present compelling arguments to increase soybean meal inclusion in swine diets, as well as firm motivation for the soybean industry to pull together on quality goals.
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.