Caleb Ragland knows there is a direct connection in profitability between the soybeans he is harvesting this fall and the hogs he raises on his Kentucky farm.
Ragland, a member of the board of directors for the American Soybean Association, farms near Magnolia, Kentucky. He says soybean and pork producers need each other.
“We’ve been through a really difficult chapter,” he says. “We need to do everything we can to help each other. … Soybeans and livestock, we’re in it together.”
Officials at the ASA say the numbers are fairly simple. Soybeans are crushed to produce soybean meal and oil.
On average, one 60-pound bushel of soybeans produced in the United States makes about 47.2 pounds of meal and 11.5 pounds of oil. The meal represents about 68% of the revenue from that bushel, and the primary use of that meal is livestock feed, mostly for hogs or poultry.
Officials at the Iowa Pork Producers Association say that from wean to 270 pounds, a pig eats about 12 bushels of corn and 2.5 bushels of soybeans. During a year, Iowa pigs will eat soybeans from about 23% of the state’s soybean acres (about 2.2 million acres). Those figures don’t count the soybeans that are shipped out of state or exported out of the country.
“The build-up of soybean demand in the last decade is tied to the domestic production of livestock,” says Iowa State University Extension ag economist Chad Hart.
Hart says that while there are other uses for soybeans and soy meal, livestock feed remains at the top of the list. Most soybeans either go toward feeding hogs or poultry in the United States, or they are exported to feed livestock in other countries.
For example, the export of soybeans to China in recent years has largely gone to feed hogs and poultry there. When African swine fever hit the Chinese hog herd, it meant a shift of some soybeans from being exported to feed hogs in China to being used domestically to feed hogs so the pork could be shipped to China.
“Both piles are going to the livestock industry,” Hart says.