More than Meal: Soybeans Supply Multitude of Feed Products

Featured in the November 2017 issue of our magazine.

By Laura Temple

Animal feed is the top market for Illinois soybeans. Animals get required amino acids from protein. And soybean meal provides a consistent protein source for pigs, poultry, beef and dairy cattle, companion animals and more.

“Our feed mills use soybean meal in almost every ration we create, regardless of species,” says Joel Prestegaard, livestock specialist, Hueber Feed, Creston, Ill.

Jeanne van der Veen, equine and specialty nutritionist with Kent Nutrition Group, agrees. “Soybean meal provides a good amino acid balance, including high levels of lysine,” she says. “Lysine is the first limiting amino acid for most animals.”

But soybeans supply other ingredients — hulls, oil and protein concentrates or isolates — that add value to specific animal feed formulations. Demand for soy components besides meal bolsters animal agriculture as the top soybean customer.

High-fiber hulls: Soybean hulls, or the hard, outer shells of soybeans, contain fiber and protein. Crushing processes that dehull soybeans create a valuable feed ingredient.

“We consider soybean hulls a super fiber,” van der Veen says. “Herbivores get more energy from fermented soybean hulls than hay or other grain hulls.”

The fiber in hulls supports digestion when grain rations supplement forage diets for cattle, horses, rabbits, sheep, goats and other herbivores. Their high energy value benefits active animals like show and race horses.

“We pellet hulls for young cattle,” Prestegaard says. “They are lower in starch than corn, fitting well in calf starter rations. They are easy on developing ruminant guts.”

Soybean hulls also help older cattle maintain rate of gain and supply energy for older horses unable to graze or chew forages well.

Fiber from hulls also benefits omnivores.

“We grind soybean hulls for fiber in sow feed,” Prestegaard says. “Fiber ensures their internal systems function well, similar to how fiber works in humans.”

High-fiber hulls provide similar value to pets like dogs, hamsters and gerbils, according to van der Veen.

Fluid fat: Soybean oil fulfills needs for fats and calories in liquid form.

“We use soybean oil to reach fat content and calorie requirements in most of our feeds with minimal volume,” van der Veen explains. “It contains a preferred balance of omega fatty acids compared to corn oil and delivers more concentrated calories than grain.”

With these qualities, soybean oil benefits animals needing high calories but limited grain, such as performance horses.

“Some niche markets for hogs require all-vegetable diets or non-animal-protein diets,” Prestegaard says. “Soybean oil replaces animal fats as an energy source in those rations.”

Cattle farmers use sweet, sticky feeds to ease the transition to dry feed in young cattle and to stimulate appetite in calves. Show cattle feed also falls into this category.

“We coat feeds that include molasses with soybean oil to lock everything together, add energy and prevent drying,” Prestegaard says. “Soybean oil also cuts dust in cattle feed.”

Concentrated protein: Protein concentrate and isolates can be extracted from dehulled, defatted soybean flakes.

Though more expensive, resulting products allow specialty feeds to meet specific amino acid profiles and protein levels. Soy protein concentrates and isolates can be used in milk replacer for dairy calves, high-end pig starter diets, poultry pre-starter rations and fish feeds in place of fishmeal.

“Soybeans provide high-quality, digestible protein, fiber and fat ingredients that contribute to nutritious animal feeds,” says van der Veen.

What is first limiting?

ANSWER: The amino acid in shortest supply relative to the animal’s daily requirement. A pig will only grow as fast as the availability of the first limiting amino acid.