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Science

Higher feed-value soybeans meet livestock producers’ nutrition goals

Farmers send in samples to learn about performance

ATLANTA, Ill. — A single seed selection decision has incredible power. Many agronomic factors can be managed during the growing season, but you can’t go back and change your mind as to which seed to plant once it’s in the ground.

And that one decision has tremendous implications for your farm, your industry and your market customers — especially when it comes to feed value.

Until the development of Illinois Soybean Association’s analysis, farmers were unable to see soybean feed value. That changed when ISA and the checkoff-funded High Yield PLUS Quality initiative shined a spotlight on feed value and its importance to livestock feed markets, particularly to swine producers.

The HY+Q team developed a ground-breaking model that predicts variety-level value differences. This led to individual customer soybean variety feed value reports for anyone who submits samples to the annual United Soybean Board testing program.

This information makes for easier, more informed selection decisions. For instance, planting varieties that score 5.5 or higher for feed value helps soybeans better meet the needs of livestock customers and protects feed markets.

Since livestock consume more than 70% of domestic soybean production, and swine and poultry producers, as well as dairy and beef producers, value soybean amino acid content when developing feed rations, soybean farmers must evaluate varieties in terms of feed value versus just bushels per acre.

“Yield is always important, but if we keep growing the wrong varieties of soybeans, those that are not higher in feed value, eventually yield won’t matter because our customers won’t support our market, which will hurt prices,” said Ron Kindred, soybean farmer and ISA director from Atlanta, Illinois.

“It’s very important for farmers to select wisely and look for varieties that offer higher feed value. That information may not always be available from a seed company, but our sampling program is helping to bridge that gap.”

Reporting Results

Results have been eye-opening for farmers and agronomists who have participated in the HY+Q testing program.

“It’s interesting to see how we compare,” said Frank Doll, who has submitted samples for several years.

He double crops soybeans after wheat on his family’s farm near Pocahontas. His soybeans frequently rank extremely high for feed value, and results from the 2018 season finished in the top 20 for Illinois that year.

“It’s great to see how we did every time we get results,” Doll said, adding that he intends to plant additional acres of high-value varieties in the future. “Yield, standability and weed control are important traits for us, but anything we can do to help improve the market, to increase the quality of what we grow is important, too.”

First time testing program participant Jim Porterfield, Ideal Soil Consultant watershed and water quality specialist, admits he wasn’t sure what to expect when he submitted samples from organic soybean test plots near Martinsville last fall.

“I wanted to know how these beans compared to others in Illinois,” he said. “The protein content was about 8% higher than the Eastern Corn Belt average, but the oil and the amino acids were slightly lower than average.”

Porterfield said he supports planting higher-value soybeans to help livestock producers better meet their nutrition goals. He envisions future partnerships between livestock producers and soybean growers to help propel progress.

Informed Decisions

Doll encourages soybean farmers to send in samples to learn more about varietal feed-value performance on their farms.

“It’s easy to do, and the bigger the sample size, the better the information available to make decisions,” he said.

You can request test sample kits at soyvalue.com.

Also, access to the detailed list of top-performing varieties is available at the site, too. This list includes the recently updated feed value data from 248 soybean seed varieties and 40,250 soybean samples from 2018 Farmers Independent Research of Seed Technologies trials.

The inclusive list also contains sample results from more than 700 varieties submitted by farmers and agribusinesses across the country. To date, more than 50,000 samples have been analyzed for feed value, revealing the farmers have options available that will help them meet yield and agronomic goals while preserving feed markets with higher-value soybeans.

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