Dr. Beth Kegley, professor of animal science with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, leads a project investigating the impact of soy products on cattle nutrition. Early results from her research indicate that soy-based feed can positively impact the health of cattle, benefitting their inflammatory response, ability to deal with environmental stresses and growth.
Phase one of this project focuses on cattle’s inflammatory response and whether or not a soy-based diet can help. For this phase, Kegley and her team take a small number of genetically similar calves and feeding them with a grain supplement without soy or has either soybean meal or soy oil. Once the calves are ready, Kegley and her team will inject the calves with an agent that causes an inflammatory response. They will use blood samples and other markers to detect if the calves fed soy products are able to respond better to the inflammation.
“Soy products have been used in cattle diets for decades,” Kegley said. “If soybean meal or soy oil is giving this additional benefit that we haven’t detected, that could make it more valuable to use in these diets when the cattle are stressed.”
Phase two will look into if calves on a soy-based diet get sick, using a different group of calves from phase one that are not genetically similar to each other. Calves are more susceptible to diseases, such as pneumonia, when stressed. Stress can be caused by being in transit or in a sale barn with other calves from all over, where they are more likely to be exposed to new bacteria. Kegley and her team want to know if a soy-based diet will keep calves healthy in times of stress.
Cattle producers will see the greatest impact from this project. It will provide them data showing whether soy-based feeds are worth the expense or not. However, soybean producers should also expect to see an economic impact as they do from any use of soy-products.