November 15, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

The most important thing goat producers can do during fall is begin to think about how they will meet winter feeding needs. Even with recent rainfall, the drought of late summer resulted in a shortened hay supply. Farmers need to decide what they will do to compensate for the limited and high-priced hay, and the answer may be in soybean hulls.

Terry Hutchens, Extension associate for goat production at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, said that farmers in the Commonwealth feed hay an average of 120 to 160 days including July and August of 2002.

"Goat farmers feed about 500 to 640 pounds of hay every year for each mature doe," he said. "As in other dry years, the price of hay will go to the upper limits of fair market price."

Hutchens said an 800-pound round bale will likely sell for around $35 this year and square bales could exceed $180 per ton. Both of those estimates are twice the average value of other years.

UK animal scientists are trying to determine if certain crop by-products are feasible as hay replacements. Soybean hulls are just one of the products at which scientists are taking a closer look.

"Soybeans are high in energy and fiber and they are about 12 percent crude protein," Hutchens said. "Research in Oklahoma and West Virginia has shown increased bacterial protein flow similar to corn and an increase in fiber digestion for calves wintered on forages."

One of the advantages of soybean hulls, which are a by-product of soybean processing for oil and meal, is that no special processing isrequired. However, if the hulls are left unsteamed, they carry an enzyme that will break down urea added to feeds. Hutchens said heat-treated soybean hulls are referred to as soybean millrun, soybean flakes or soy bran flakes.

Another thing farmers prioritize is the cost of feed. Currently feeding soybean hulls to goats costs the farmer $80 per ton or one cent per head, per day when feeding a 150-pound doe 2.5 pounds of hulls a day.

"Hulls may save as much as six cents per head, per day when compared to hay cost only," Hutchens said. "Also, drought stressed hay may be lower in feed value when compared to soybean hulls."

Another notable quality of soybean hulls worth mentioning is that the fiber in soybean hulls rapidly ferments and may contain substantial amounts of pectin. Hutchens said the hulls are 67 percent neutral detergent fiber, but because of their small size, the effective NDF is much lower.


Terry Hutchens  859-257-2465