Meal constitutes more than two-thirds of every soybean, nearly all of which gets used by animal ag. However, U.S. soy has lost animal-feed market share to alternative feed sources, such as dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS).
“The crude protein in DDGS is lower, and the amino acid balance is not great, but it’s so much cheaper,” says soy checkoff farmer-leader Scott Singlestad, whose Waseca, Minn., farm includes soybean and hog production.
Soybean farmers can improve the quality of their soy meal to meet animal farmers’ needs. To help, here are five things to keep in mind.
- 2012 Quality Results – The most recent checkoff-funded U.S. Soybean Quality Survey found oil levels rose to 18.5 percent, but protein fell a half-point to 34.3 percent. University of Minnesota soybean researcher Seth Naeve, Ph.D., conducts the study and presents the results to purchasers in Asia. Naeve says buyers want to know what U.S. farmers are doing to improve quality long-term.
- Your No. 1 Customer – Soybean meal is an efficient protein source for animal feed, particularly poultry and swine. Perdue’s Randy Mitchell recently called properly processed soy meal the “gold standard” for poultry diets. Mitchell points to U.S. soybean meal’s ability to cost-effectively deliver most critical amino acids.
- Weather – According to Naeve, a drought’s impact on quality can be dramatic, but it can also be unpredictable. “We don’t fully understand what the effect on quality is going to be,” he says. “Last year, the drought affected different regions differently, so we weren’t exactly sure how quality would play out.”
- Variety Selection – In a wet year or a dry year, the most effective tool farmers have to improve protein levels is variety selection. “In general, the highest-protein varieties tend to be higher-protein in most environments,” Naeve says.
- Value-Based Pricing – The United Soybean Board (USB) believes farmers should be rewarded for improving quality, so USB created the Value Task Force to figure out how. “Farmers don’t yet see the financial effects of increasing the protein and oil levels in their soybeans,” says Singlestad. “The goal of the Value Task Force is to create a driver to select high-quality varieties.