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Playing The Long Game With Animal Nutrition And Crop Production

Playing The Long Game With Animal Nutrition And Crop Production
Every agriculture producer has a unique set of goals they use to benchmark progress. The common theme among all producers is to achieve peak efficiency and profit potential for long-term success. Livestock producers focus on keeping up with the latest in animal nutrition to market a high-quality product while being efficient. Soybean producers consistently evaluate variety and trait package options to protect and produce high yields every season.
 
To make decisions on seed varieties and nutrition, producers rely on a team of seed advisors, nutritionists and agronomists to share their knowledge throughout the production cycle. Beyond the elevator, the agriculture industry is changing, and competition is increasing. It’s important for farmers to understand the industry beyond the farm’s production goals and see the long game. There’s a growing amount of cause and effect happening across different industry segments that impacts decisions made on the farm. From the aftermath of challenging weather to animal diseases outbreaks, evaluating how the supply chain is evolving puts farmers in the position to meet the needs of a global economy.
 
Bridging the Knowledge Gap
 
It’s easy to become siloed in one way of thinking about agriculture production. As the landscape of modern agriculture evolves, it’s crucial to close the gap among industries to find improved efficiencies and opportunities. The soy checkoff recognizes the need for communication between two agriculture industries: animal nutrition and soybean production. To support an open exchange between farmers who produce soy and nutritionists who consult with livestock producers on purchasing soy, the checkoff developed the Animal Nutrition Working Group.
 
For over a decade, 15 specialized animal nutritionists from across the country come together twice a year. The group focuses on soybean research and improvement in swine and poultry production, specifically nutrition. A greater understanding among the soybean and animal production industries gives farmers insight into their largest customers’ needs and allows producers to farm smart, creating new opportunities for soybean demand. 
 
In addition to the research, the group discusses other issues impacting the swine and poultry industries and how those issues ultimately affect demand. Currently, the swine industry is experiencing repercussions from African swine fever on a global scale. Additionally, poultry farmers are consistently focused on avian influenza and how it impacts production for farmers and processors. This workgroup contextualizes these stressors from across the world and makes them relatable to the U.S. soybean farmer.
 
During working group meetings, nutritionists and soybean leaders exchange key information from their research, including trends in the animal nutrition industry and soybean value chain. The participants take their new learnings and insights back to fellow colleagues, clients and key industry members.
 
John Harrell, a Pennsylvania soybean farmer and United Soybean Board director, attended the Animal Nutrition Working Group meeting this past spring. “This meeting really caused me to think. I left with more questions than answers, wanting to hear more,” Harrell said.
 
Creating Demand for Years — Soybeans and Livestock Nutrition
 
Swine and poultry are the largest consumers of soy ingredients, soy’s top clients. Over 50% of the soybean meal sold in the United States is used in diets developed for poultry, and an additional 26% is used to feed swine.1 
 
The research supported by the checkoff and the Animal Nutrition Working Group work to build demand for soybeans in both livestock industries. Specifically, both poultry and swine producers desire soybean varieties with a higher protein content. Nutritionists are consistently working side by side with their producer clients to create a complete ration to reach animal nutrition goals without sacrificing budget. 
 
Soybeans can provide benefits to a ration because they deliver a full package of essential amino acids. With soybean meal derived from a higher protein variety, livestock producers can use one ingredient to help fulfill two nutritional goals with one product. Synthetic products are also available on the market and compliment soy’s ability to provide amino acids and protein. However, synthetic options can come at a higher cost and impact profit potential. It’s important as livestock producers develop their animal diets with a nutritionist regularly to keep both options in mind for a well-balanced result, in both feed and budget.
 
Soybean meal brings other efficiencies to the ration. Not only is soybean meal protein easy for livestock to digest, but with the right blend of nutrients, allows the amino acids to be absorbed effectively.
 
“Nutritionists have a lot of options with synthetic products, and more are being added all the time,” said Harrell. “The Animal Nutrition Working Group opened my eyes to see the fact we need to do more to promote soybeans as a top solution for animal nutrition.”
 
It’s important to listen to animal nutritionists explain how soybean ingredients fit into the ration and why soybean varieties make a difference to livestock producers. With over 75% of soybean meal going directly to swine and poultry producers, growers need to take note of the impact their soybean variety selection has on the end user. The more soybean farmers work to produce a high-protein end product, the more livestock producers will turn to a soybean byproduct versus a costly synthetic.
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