Soybean farmers and animal feed nutritionists share a common goal — serving their customers. For everyone involved in animal agricultural, those end users are consumers of pork, poultry, and dairy products. However, there are unique customer needs throughout the value chain before those end consumers. Understanding and addressing those customer needs provides opportunities for collaboration that optimize efficiencies and enhance profitability across the entire value chain.

The Animal Nutrition Working Group (ANWG) has worked for several years in the United States to open dialogue between animal nutritionists and farmers about soybean meal. Through this group, farmers and animal nutritionists have been able to collaborate and improve the quality of U.S. soybean meal to meet the needs of domestic animal agriculture. 

At the global level, the United Soybean Board (USB) has found that there are gaps of knowledge, communication and collaboration between U.S. soybean farmers and international animal nutritionists. 

With more than 60 percent of all U.S. soy sold internationally, the soy checkoff recognized the need to increase conversation across the world and meet the needs of international nutritionists, while expanding global market share. 

To kickoff this conversation, the soy checkoff decided to take the Animal Nutrition Working Group global, beginning with the Feed Technology and Animal Nutrition Conference in Phuket, Thailand. At the conference, nutritionists and farmers from Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the United States had open discussions and connected through learning sessions. 

The soy checkoff assembled a group of international animal nutritionists and farmer-leaders for an International Animal Nutrition Working Group. Much like the domestic ANWG, the farmers and animal nutritionists gain a better understanding of the work each group does, give feedback to industry leaders and describe their expectations at the international level.

Prior to the conference, Kentucky farmer Quint Pottinger had little information about the work of international animal nutritionists. Typically, when selling soybeans overseas, the buyer is also formulating and blending the feed. Pottinger learned that in some Southeast Asian countries, this is not always the case. “The nutritionists are not the one’s making the purchasing decisions for soybean meal,” Pottinger said.

Nutritionists like Marie Josephine Milagros Cruz, with Bounty Fresh Foods, Inc. in the Philippines, explains that an import group buys soybean meal on behalf of the company. “There is very little interaction or communication between us nutritionists and the brokers or traders,” Cruz said. 

Similarly, Cecille Lazaro, research and development operations manager and nutritionist for San Miguel Foods, says buyers and nutritionists disperse the meal to 42 feed mills throughout the Philippines. “It is a team effort,” Lazaro says. “Together the nutritionists, planning and purchasing group helps ensure a consistent supply of meal to all mills.” 

Pottinger explains that this lack of communication between nutritionists and their buyers increases the importance of communication between the growers and nutritionists. 

“The nutritionists are asking for a higher quality bean, and I’m thinking, ‘I thought I was producing it.’ And I may be,” says Pottinger. But there are so many layers between his farm and the international nutritionists, he says.

Pottinger explains that his direct customer is the grain elevator, their customer is the soybean processor, and their customers are the meal buyers. By the time the soybean meal gets to the nutritionists and feed formulators, it may have been blended multiple times to meet a threshold standard. 

“I have to work directly with the nutritionist who is blending the soybean meal,” Pottinger says. “To make sure they’re getting what they want, and it sounds like that’s what needs to be happening.” 

This initial gathering is only the beginning of many more conversations between U.S. growers and international farmers and nutritionists. Although feed formulations vary based on the region, all animal nutritionists value a reliable, consistent quality supply of soy.

“With this international group, I think our board seems to be on the right path to helping our growers get in tune with what our customers want,” Pottinger said.