If you're scratching your head about what to feed your livestock this winter, of if you don't have livestock but a neighbor does and you're thinking about asking if he wants to round bale your soybean stubble after harvest for feed, at least one specialist says 'forget it!'
Robert Zupancic, grazing specialist for southeast Indiana with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, says that in this case, you might be better off, or at least as well off, feeding snowballs vs. soybean residue. It's certainly low on his priority list, perhaps so low that it is off the page.
"Corn stalks make a good feed alternative, especially if you bale them properly," he says. "But soybean stover is another matter altogether."
The problem is that the nutrient value is so low that the cows don't get much food value from chewing on the stubble, he says. You would need a high level of supplementation, so high that it might no longer be a low–cost feed alternative.
During the last time that forage supplies were low in Indiana a few years ago, some people did bale up some soybean big round bales (residue, after harvest). Extension educators sampled big round bales of several alternative forages and found that nutrient content in the soybean stover was indeed very low.
There's another issue with removing soybean residue for feed, Zupancic says. Soybeans are already borderline on producing enough residue to protect the soil from soil erosion over the winter. That's likely to be especially true this year, when the amount of residue produced per acre by short soybeans will probably be on the low side.
According to the Purdue University Corn & Soybean Field Guide, you shoot for 85% residue remaining after planting in the spring. That means 85% of the soil still has cover by a piece of residue. Reality is, as noted in the Guide, soybean stubble and residue is more fragile, and you would be lucky to have that much residue immediately after harvest, especially this year, let alone by the time you planted into it next spring.