When the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff-funded High Yield PLUS Quality (HY+Q) program uncovered up to billions of dollars of potential livestock feed value hiding at the variety level, it represented a game-changing development. It also created a challenge as calculating feed value for nearly 50,000 soybean samples took five people three weeks, making it difficult to get soybean quality data to farmers in time to make seed-selection decisions.
A solution was found in Dalex Livestock Solutions as well as a software modification that helps reduce the analysis calculation to about two hours. This means the soybean feed value analysis can be completed and data made available to livestock nutritionists and producers much faster. Soybean producers also benefit because they gain critical insight into feed value rankings at the variety level to aid in their seed-selection decisions.
The Dalex software modification makes it possible to quickly compare the feed value of thousands of soybean samples, which will help the checkoff increase soybean quality and value faster for farmers, livestock nutritionists, seed companies, and numerous others who can benefit from quick, variety-level livestock feed value information.
“Automating the feed value analysis makes it that much easier to inform farmers which varieties are most likely to deliver high-quality soybeans and feed that can increase soybean value over time for everyone,” said Dale Downs, president of Dalex. “It also will benefit livestock producers as more soybean farmers factor feed value into their seed-buying decisions over time.”
Now one nutritionist can run more than 50,000 samples through Dalex in about two hours.
Improving feed value
ISA statisticians analyzed the sample data to see which varieties deliver the highest livestock feed value over time. The entire process ISA developed brings a new criterion to farmers when selecting soybean seed, which the United Soybean Board adopted in a summer 2020 ad campaign: A livestock feed value score.
“This is a revolutionary development for livestock producers, seed companies, soybean farmers and our customers,” said Dr. Linda Kull, director of ag innovations for the ISA Checkoff Program. “When the feed value of 50,000 samples is calculated this fast, we can see soybean value at the sample or variety level like our livestock customers see in meal. The sample data leads to variety-level information that is provided to farmers and easily gives them the information they need to make informed variety selection decisions that support their biggest customers.”
More sustainable amino acid source
ISA discovered significant differences in livestock feed value at the variety level. ISA also determined that these differences could reduce feed costs in a grow-finish swine operation by up to 40 cents per pig and nearly three cents per broiler, based on amino acid levels, if all farmers selected soybean varieties with high livestock feed value. This amounts to an estimated $456 million annually in improved soybean value if the bottom 50% of the soybean samples were as good as the top 50%, according to ISA research.
More than 70% of soybeans grown in the U.S. are used to feed livestock. However, in some rations, soybeans have been replaced by synthetic amino acids and corn byproducts. This increased use of substitute feed ingredients at the expense of soybean meal translates into substantial losses in soybean sales and market share in critical domestic and international livestock markets. ISA efforts to encourage farmers to plant more soybean varieties with higher feed value, combined with the new Dalex feed formulation software, will benefit both livestock and soybean producers by increasing soybean demand and providing a more sustainable source of amino acids for livestock.