More Meal, More Milk: How South Dakota’s Soybean And Dairy Industries Are Thriving

November 1, 2023

Soybean meal has a well-earned reputation as the gold standard for supplemental protein in livestock nutrition. As a highly digestible source of essential amino acids, it has long been the primary driving force behind domestic and international soybean demand.

Checkoff-sponsored research has helped secure this top-tier status for soybean meal, providing the necessary data to demonstrate its value and, at the same time, guiding livestock producers on optimal inclusion rates in rations.

And while the poultry and swine industries remain primary consumers of soybean meal, there’s an often overlooked sector within animal agriculture that represents an increasingly large piece of the pie: the dairy industry.

Increased soybean meal consumption in the dairy industry

According to United Soybean Board (USB), dairy cows accounted for 14.4 percent of domestic soybean meal consumption in 2022. That figure was more than double what it was in 2012 and trailed consumption levels of the U.S. swine industry by just a few percentage points.

USB reports that checkoff research and innovation have also paved the way for high oleic soybean meal in dairy rations because of HO soybeans’ countless benefits to a cow’s health.

Most dairy producers view soybean meal as a more cost-effective protein source than synthetic alternatives, which require additional processing in order to pass through a cow’s rumen during digestion. It also contributes to improved health outcomes and stronger milk production totals.

An additional factor playing into meal inclusion in dairy rations is the way it contributes to an overarching sustainability narrative. Not unlike those of us in the soybean industry, dairy producers are being asked to demonstrate how well they care for the earth and its resources. Utilizing soybean meal that is grown responsibly and is locally sourced and processed reflects a commitment to sustainability that drives the dairy industry forward.

Dairy demand for soybean meal impacts South Dakota

South Dakota’s dairy industry has grown significantly along the I-29 corridor over the past two decades. USDA data reveals that South Dakota ranked first among all states in year-over-year production growth by percentage in 2022. Total in-state milk production has roughly doubled since 2013.

This industry growth bodes well for soybean producers in South Dakota.

For one, it contributes to increased local demand, which, in turn, helps preserve more soybean value in-state. Second, it secures future demand when the state’s crushing capacity doubles with the addition of a new soybean processing plant near Mitchell in 2025. Finally, it provides additional competition alongside the state’s swine and poultry industries to support higher demand for soybean meal.

Animal agriculture and soybean production

Supporting livestock production in-state and across the U.S. is a priority for the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. To learn more about ways farmers sponsor research and promote animal agriculture through their checkoff, talk to your district director or call (605) 330-9942.