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High oleic soybeans can provide fat, protein to dairy cows
By Michele F. Mihaljevich
Indiana Correspondent

MONTVALE, N.J. – Over the last couple years, there has been an “explosion of interest” from dairy nutritionists over how to utilize high oleic soybeans on the farm, a professor of nutritional physiology at Penn State University said recently.
The soybeans are a good source of fat and protein for dairy cows, Dr. Kevin J. Harvatine said.
“High oleic soybeans are a great opportunity for many dairies,” he explained. “Home-grown fatty acids. Reduced risk of rumen-available unsaturated fatty acids allows us to use more of that in our diet. Rumen escape oleic acid may increase digestibility of other fatty acids. Moderate to high feeding rate, depending on your approach. Some people want to maximize the amount of fat they’re getting from them and they’re going up to 15-plus percent. Other people are using it as an RUP (rumen undegraded protein) source and getting the fat along with it.”
High oleic soybeans are those with oil that contains at least 70 percent oleic acid, according to the Missouri Soybean Association. Typically, soybean oil has 22-28 percent oleic acid. The oil contains less saturated fat than other commonly used oils, the association said.
Harvatine discussed the use of high oleic soybeans April 2 during the Real Science Lecture Series sponsored by Balchem.
“I really see this as these high oleic soybeans provide opportunities,” he said. “We don’t have a requirement for high oleic soybeans in our diet, right? This is an ingredient that brings nutrients with it but we have other competing ingredients and the reason we’re going to use it on a farm is going to be different from farm to farm. It’s going to be very much a different optimal situation based on that individual situation.”
Those opportunities include lower risk of milk fat depression and that they may be a more economical source of dietary fat, depending on prices, Harvatine said. The beans are also another option for crop rotation, he added.
Before opting to grow high oleic soybeans, farmers should think about their available acreage, Harvatine noted. When considering the potential financial benefits, producers should consider the other local sources of high oleic beans, the competition from crushers and the distance to those crushers, he said.
Farmers also need to know how they can be sure the soybeans they purchase are high oleic.
“Most of this has been done by basically having source verified and segregated,” Harvatine said. “If you’re buying the seed and growing it yourself, you know what you have, you just have to keep it in a separate bin. If you’re buying it from a neighbor or a mill, they’re going to have to be doing the extra work of segregating that. That’s a lot of additional work and logistics to keep these things segregated within the supply chain.”
The beans may also be tested, but that’s a slow and expensive process, Harvatine stated.
There are currently two sources of seed/genetics commercially available – Plenish (GMO) by Pioneer, and Soyleic (non-GMO), marketed by the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council.
In the short term, farmers should think about the dynamics in the high oleic soybean and oil markets, which may present opportunities for dairy nutritionists to get a hold of the beans at no premium or at a good value, he said. They are also an alternative when the other fat markets spike or are not available.
Longer term, Harvatine said producers should consider changing crop rotations and strategies to make home-grown fat. Farmers also have better control of costs and risks.
Harvatine said he hopes farmers will think of all the feeding possibilities of high oleic soybeans.
“When I think of using these as ingredients, what I’m getting a little bit worried about is I hear a lot of people looking at these soybeans as just a fat ingredient. They are bringing in fat and we need to value that fat, but they’re also bringing in quite a bit of protein and quite a bit of RUP. So, we also need to consider that when we’re least-cost formulating and thinking about the economics of this.
“We need to think about fat and protein. Fat and protein are our main drivers of cash flow for dairies. Over the last year, fat has been outpacing protein, but looking long term, I think we need to think about both of those being our important drivers.”