Rescue Mission to Reclaim Lost Feed Markets

By Rick Purnell

Hundreds of millions of dollars in soybean sales are being lost to synthetic amino acids used in domestic livestock feeds each year. The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program developed the High Yield PLUS Quality (HY+Q) program as a response. The ongoing effort is to help farmers fight back to protect and, ultimately, regain market share. At Issue

Since 2000, up to 70 percent of soybean meal in swine feed has been replaced by a combination of synthetic amino acid products and DDGS (distillers dried grains with solubles).

And the impact is measurable, says R. Dean Boyd, Ph.D., technical director emeritus, Hanor Company and Triumph Foods Group; and adjunct professor of animal nutrition at North Carolina State University and Iowa State University. The Hanor family of companies includes pork production and processing across multiple states, selling 1.4 million hogs per year and processing more than six million. For each year between 2000 and 2010, Boyd says the Hanor Company replaced 6,222 semi-loads of soybeans with 6,066 semi-loads of corn and 146 semi-loads of synthetic amino acid products.

ISA calculates the annual net loss of farm income as about $28 million for that one company alone. When the feed ingredient shift is applied across other domestic livestock customers, losses amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. Globally, the lost market share would amount to billions of dollars, so ISA has called for an industry rescue mission to reclaim lost feed markets.

“Soybean quality has been declining for some time,” says Linda Kull, Ph.D., ISA director of ag innovations and tech transfer. “HY+Q set out to address the U.S. quality issue in new ways, looking at science and communications differently than before. While quality naturally varies by location, we’ve found some varieties are more likely to meet livestock customer needs.”

ISA has analyzed more than 47,000 soybean samples and found a way to see the potential feed value each soybean variety can deliver. The difference in feed cost at the variety level can be about $0.80 per hog head. Varieties that are naturally higher in amino acids, and therefore offer higher feed value, are already on the market today. These varieties can deliver maximum value to livestock customers without sacrificing yield and are listed at

ISA has analyzed thousands of soybean samples and found soybean value declining during the last several years when used in rations.Farmers Join the Effort

Many farmers are already making a difference by growing high-value varieties.

“I try to be a responsible soybean grower. We need to do everything we can to please our livestock customers,” says Don Guinnip, soybean farmer from Marshall, Ill. “Knowing the nutritional composition of my soybeans is very important to me. I want to know protein content, oil yield and amino acid profiles. I want a history of that information so I can make better variety selections and have field-by-field comparisons of how those varieties perform.”

Soybean grower consideration of end-user needs cannot be overemphasized. “Nutritionists know about soybean quality issues,” notes Boyd. “We know the feeding limitations are due to this reduction in quality. We know soybean quality by processing plant and growing region. We are tasked with knowing this to be able to efficiently and economically rear pigs.”

Swine Feed Ingredient Trends Since 1990Seed Companies Sign On

Teams at AgriGold and LG Seeds are collaborating with ISA to support the HY+Q program. The companies have more than 20 varieties in their collective portfolios that meet qualifications to be designated as superior varieties for livestock feed.

“Yield and agronomic characteristics are still important when it comes to selecting varieties, but ISA has identified varieties that have high yield, as well as high feed value,” says Chuck Hill, AgriGold specialty products manager. “Whether it’s corn or soybean seed, we’re always looking to add value to what we sell. We have to push out synthetics and encourage livestock customers to use more soybean meal. There is value in this approach.”

Hill says becoming part of the HY+Q program was an easy decision.

“We’ll be doing it again next year as we identify our new varieties and determine how they fit the high yield and quality criteria. This helps AgriGold demonstrate the innovation we strive to deliver,” Hill says. “This is just our fourth year selling soybeans, and our hope is that it lets growers know we’re trying to improve the soybean market.”

Such efforts also affect soybean breeding programs.

“We’re at the beginning stages of that,” Hill says. “It is certainly one place this message needs to go to. Breeders still have to work toward yield, disease resistance and sound agronomic characteristics, but to some extent the protein quality and amino acid content may be a tie breaker. For example, when selecting varieties and variety A and variety B are about the same in all characteristics, except that A is better on feed quality, we’d likely select A.”

Soybean quality has been declining for some time. HY+Q set out to address the U.S. quality issue in new ways, looking at science and communications differently than before.Get on the Bandwagon

Currently, 768 varieties are found in the HY+Q database, with rankings based on the amino acids livestock nutritionists use to calculate least-cost feed rations.

Farmers can get their own local soybean feed nutrition profiles from the 2019 harvest. A free, postage-paid sample kit can be requested from Once returned and analyzed, a confidential report on the sample’s feed value is made available to the submitting farmer.

“Soybean farmers have a product to sell that’s naturally better than synthetic feed ingredients,” says Kull. “Another synthetic feed ingredient factory is being built in the United States. Every rail car they deliver will replace soybean meal in the market. We can’t let that happen when varieties are available today that can help soybean farmers reclaim their feed markets.”