Earlier this year soybeans were planted across rural New York and in the days following, the seeds germinated by emerging from the soil. With optimal weather conditions, and best management practices, the soybeans eventually matured into leafy, deep green plants with pods encasing the beans. Eventually, prior to harvesting, the plants will turn brown, dry out and lose the leaves, exposing the pods in late fall.
As we continue through harvest season this fall, the biggest challenge that farmers are facing is Mother Nature. Crops depend on optimal weather conditions and this fall has been tough. Currently some fields are under water, too muddy, or simply inaccessible with equipment. But despite this, farmers need to harvest crops to feed animals for the upcoming year.
Soybeans are a key component of animal agriculture and can be utilized in a variety of ways on and off the farm. On the farm, soybeans can be utilized in a feed ration (recipe) as whole, crushed, or ground beans. Heat-treated or roasted soybeans undergo exposure to extreme heat (400-600 degrees F) and can be utilized in feed rations as protein content for cows. Soybean meal is simply soybeans that have been finely ground. This product is palatable, nutrient dense, highly digestible, and a consistent source of protein. Farmers can also utilize soybean hulls! The hulls are a by-product of soybean processing which are low in lignin, relatively high in energy, a good source of rumen digestible fiber, and low in non-structural carbohydrates. Farmers work hard to utilize as much of the plant as they can on the farm.
Animal agriculture is the top customer for soybeans in the United States and according to the United Soybean checkoff, soybean meal provides soybean meal to numerous segments of animal agriculture including:
·64% to poultry
·24% to pigs
·10% to beef and dairy
·The remainder goes to aquatic farming and companion animals.
As soybean harvest takes place, we can’t forget about the other uses, off the farm, for this product including human nutrition and industrial uses. Food companies utilize soybean meal and soybean oil during the cooking process. Soybeans can be found in numerous industries, beyond feeding animals and people. Check out this image to learn more!
So, as we drive through the countryside this Fall and witness soybean harvest, take a moment and think about the ways that soybeans are utilized in your everyday life. They are certainly a product that is used to feed and fuel our communities.