by Emma Peters

Animal agriculture in Illinois supports more than 91,000 jobs, delivers $31.8 billion in economic impact, and spans 21,300 of the state’s 71,000 farms. Yet its impact goes beyond even those impressive numbers.

Especially indebted to animal agriculture are the 43,000 Illinois farmers who grow soybeans. Livestock are the No. 1 customer of soybean farmers nationwide. Fully 97 percent of U.S. soybean meal supplies the animal agriculture and aquaculture industries. The hog industry alone consumed 15.1 million bushels of Illinois soy in 2021, adding 12.6 percent to the total value per bushel of soybeans, according to a 2022 U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) proudly supports animal agriculture. Each year, we invest in research, innovation, and growth within the sector. Our work with Illinois livestock associations, research at the University of Illinois, and investments abroad have helped find solutions to industry problems and improve the utilization of soy in animal diets.

As the No. 1 protein for animal feed, U.S. soybeans provide the quality, consistency, amino acid profile, and energy content that delivers immense value to animal agriculture. The amino acid profile of this crop is essential to animal performance and reflective of the crop’s high quality.

You might not think amino acids make a big difference. But consider: The more essential amino acids available in a ration, the more digestible that feed becomes for animals. Even one limiting amino acid can interrupt protein synthesis, stifling the benefits of the feed.

If producers feed livestock a diet that’s lacking an essential amino acid, they often supplement with a synthetic additive. Yet emerging research shows using soy can reduce the need for expensive additives. For example, U.S. soy provides hogs and poultry with the five essential amino acids they need, giving American farmers the upper hand compared to soy from competitive production regions such as Brazil and Argentina. That’s according to a study of Standardized Ileal Digestibility (SID) by the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC).

Quality and consistency of U.S. soy aren’t the crop’s only advantages, either. Soy also delivers opportunities for environmental stewardship. For example, the crop can reduce nitrogen loss via animal waste. That’s because soybean meal in diets with higher amino acid digestibility lowers the proportion of dietary amino acids that don’t get digested. Less nitrogen deposited in the soil means less potential for leeching of excess nutrients into waterways and lower risk of algae blooms that threaten aquatic life and impair drinking water.

Crush facility expansion in the Midwest is enabling more soy to reach Illinois livestock producers—and providing soybean farmers with expanded market access for their crop. The robust Illinois transportation system means soybean farmers will have access to more crush facilities and more choices when it comes to marketing their grain. They might have shorter wait times at the elevator, too.

Crush capacity is expected to increase to 79 million metric tons (MMT) by 2026, up from 63 MMT today, according to a ProExporter study commissioned by USSEC. This should allow for more competitive soybean pricing when it comes to filling the feed trough.

Clearly, Illinois soybean farmers and livestock producers are meant for each other, and the combination of emerging research and infrastructure investment suggests a bright future. ISA looks forward to continued collaboration with the state’s animal agriculture industry—benefiting farm families, communities, and consumers.

Published On: March 28, 2024Categories: Uncategorized

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