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Science

Soybean varieties with higher livestock feed values boost bottom line

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Widespread planting of soybean varieties that are low in livestock-feed value is one of the driving forces behind the alarming 70% drop in soy-inclusion rates for U.S. swine feed rations since 1990, according to checkoff-funded research.

As long as these lower-value soybeans continue to be planted, producers and the soybean industry will see quality and livestock feed sales continue to decline, according to the Illinois Soybean Association.

The inverse also is true. If more farmers planted only soybean varieties that feature higher livestock feed value scores, then market-share erosion could be thwarted.

To help make this happen, the soybean checkoff is providing livestock feed-value scores for a wide range of soybean varieties that can be accessed at soyvalue.com.

The bottom line is that elevating soybean feed value can help to recapture some feed-market share from the synthetic amino acids and corn byproducts that have replaced soybean meal in swine rations. The makers of synthetic amino acids are not backing off in their quest to increase their own feed-market share.

So, which soybean varieties offer the best livestock nutritional value? That information is readily available to soybean producers thanks to extensive, multi-year research and analysis of more than 50,000 soybean samples conducted by the Illinois Soybean Association and the soybean checkoff as part of ISA’s High Yield Plus Quality initiative.

It’s the amino acid levels in soybeans — not protein — that determine livestock feed value and drive animal growth, productivity and profitability. Using that criteria, the rankings of soybean varieties range from 1, the lowest, to 10, the highest. A value score at or above 5.5 represents the varieties that have higher-than-average livestock nutritional value.

“Information about livestock feed values on the variety level is currently not included in many seed company catalogs, but we expect that to change as both producers and seed companies become more aware of its importance,” said Linda Kull, ISA director of ag innovations.

“Planting the higher-quality soybeans is the very important first step to improve the lost-market-share situation for soy inclusion in swine feed.”

Fortunately, seed companies are beginning to take a closer look at livestock feed values and encouraging their customers to do likewise.

“In addition to yield potential and agronomic traits, feed value should be taken into account as part of the variety-selection process,” said Chuck Hill, specialty products manager at AgReliant Genetics, which sells under the AgriGold and LG Seeds seed brands.

“The good news is that many growers are already planting these varieties with high feed value for a number of reasons.”

Hill adds that many of the soybean varieties available today already have high livestock nutritional value, and many of these are also high yielders with desirable trait packages.

AgriGold and LG Seeds, for example, have more than 20 varieties in their portfolios for 2020 planting that meet the HY+Q criteria for designation as superior varieties for livestock feed.

“If farmers can find varieties from the upper half of the feed-value equation that meet yield and trait considerations, farm profitability should remain steady,” Hill said.

“As more producers plant these varieties, seed suppliers will have to focus more on feed-value criteria in their selection processes. The end result will likely be more high-value variety-selection options and fewer low-value options for farmers.”

The detailed list of top-performing varieties across many national and regional seed brands developed by extensive soybean checkoff sampling data can be accessed online at soyvalue.com. Farmers who want to know the livestock feed value of their harvested soybeans can also request test sample kits at this site.

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