Beef Bulking Up With Soy

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Beef Producers Another Valuable Customer for U.S. Soybean Meal

While the poultry and swine sectors are the biggest users of U.S. soybean meal, the value of the beef industry for soybean farmers can be overlooked. Soybean meal is heavily used by poultry and hog producers, but beef producers can also benefit from adding soybean meal or even whole soybeans to their animal’s diets.

According to research from the United Soybean Board (USB), U.S. beef operations use over 1.3 million tons of soybean meal every year. That’s the meal from about 55 million bushels of U.S. soybeans. One of those operators is Matt Widboom, from the southwestern corner of Minnesota.

“We have used soy meal as the protein supplement for our cattle since we started raising cattle in the 1930s,” says Widboom. “The quality of the feed is very important to our product, and using soy meal allows them to produce lean meat.”

Grinding the soybeans into meal makes it easier on the cattle’s digestive system. However, grinding also exposes the fat content inside the soybeans, making them spoil easier. With proper storage, soybean meal can be kept for up to three weeks after processing. After three weeks, the risk of mold increases beyond healthy levels.

There are options besides soybean meal when it comes to feeding soybeans to beef cattle. Widboom and his family also feed whole soy pellets and, when available, whole soybeans. The soy pellets are a bi-product from local crush plants and are used as a natural source of fiber to offset the cattle’s hay consumption.

“Whole soybeans are certainly a great source of protein and it’s a locally grown source,” Widboom adds. “It’s a competitive industry to get them at times but it’s a great source for us to use as beef producers.”

Mature cattle can handle a diet of 6 percent whole soybeans, while still-maturing calves can handle less than 4 percent. Widboom mixes the soybeans with cracked corn, distiller’s dried grains with solubles, molasses and a vitamin pack to keep his animals healthy.

The soybean usage doesn’t stop at the beans for Widboom. After the soybean harvest, he bales the soybean straw and blends it with hay that is then added to the cattle’s rations. Not much is left unused at the Widboom farm.

While pork and poultry may lead the way in soybean meal consumption, the beef industry is another valuable customer for U.S. soybean farmers.