Press Release

Research Examines Potential Animal Health Benefits of Soybean Meal

July 18, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, ILL. – July 19, 2012 – Recent University of Illinois research funded by the Illinois soybean checkoff shows that soybean meal may help hogs fight disease. The findings indicate that soybean meal may offer advantages compared to synthetic amino acids.

“The study results provide strong encouragement that there is a special role for soybean meal for sick pigs,” says Jim Pettigrew, University of Illinois professor. “Farmers want healthy animals, and perhaps soybean meal, a major ration component, is a new approach to lessening the impact of sickness.”

The study was designed to investigate industry observations that pigs eating soybean meal instead of crystalline amino acids responded better when sick. Young pigs with the PRRS (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome) virus received different amounts of soybean meal in their feed, and their growth and health were monitored as they recovered.


“Soybean meal may play a helpful role in reducing the impact of diseases on pork production,” says Ryan Dilger, University of Illinois assistant professor. “When unexpected diseases have interrupted on-farm research, observers noted a difference in pigs with a diet high in soybean meal. We wanted to learn if the observations were typical.”

Dilger, Pettigrew and Gabriel Rocha, University of Illinois graduate student, explain that in the first week after contracting PRRS, pigs with high soybean meal diets had better feed efficiency and less fever than pigs with low soybean meal diets.

“Just days after getting sick, young pigs receiving 10 percent more soybean meal in their diets, a level above the standard industry range, gained weight better than pigs on the low soybean meal diets,” Dilger explains. “Those eating more soybean meal had lower temperatures during the first week of sickness as well.”

Although the improvements weren’t as dramatic as anecdotes shared from on-farm research, the researchers note that the PRRS virus makes pigs more susceptible to bacterial diseases. When more than one disease is present, the benefits of soybean meal may be greater. Hog farmers have expressed interest in learning more about the potential value of soybean meal for hog health.

“Future research could allow us to quantify results for on-farm settings,” Pettigrew says. “We also would like to understand the influence of soybean meal on pigs’ immune systems to confidently make recommendations for rations for pigs at higher risk for disease.”

Pat Dumoulin, a soybean and hog farmer from Hampshire, Ill., and Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) vice chair for animal agriculture, explains the tight link between raising soybeans and hogs.

“In Illinois, hogs eat the most soybean meal, making hog farmers the top customer for Illinois soybeans,” she says. “ISA supports research that leads to improved understanding of the value of soybean meal and improved pork production.”

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) is the statewide organization for Illinois soybean growers.  The farmers on its board administer soybean checkoff funds to support research, promotions and educational programs designed to increase demand for Illinois soybeans and administer legislation and membership programs. For more information, visit


For more information, contact:
Amy Roady

Laura Temple