Soybeans were introduced on Missouri farms as a hay crop, not an oilseed crop. That started back in the dry years of the 1930s.
This year, cow-herd owners short on feed are asking about baling soybeans that won't make a bean crop.
Rob Kallenbach, University of Missouri Extension forage specialist, answers two questions the callers do not ask.
"Before you do anything, call your crop insurance agent," Kallenbach says. "Determine the crop-indemnity payment before cutting soybeans for hay."
"Second, read the label." A big consideration, not relevant in the 1930s, will be pesticides used on the crop.
Many label restrictions prevent soybean use for forages, MU specialists warn. Read the label on everything applied.
Getting back to the original question, Kallenbach says, "Yes, soybeans make good forage."
Soybean hay has a crude protein of 16-19 percent. The total digestible nutrients run in the mid-50s. "That will be better than most hay, except for other legumes such as alfalfa," Kallenbach says. "The forage is very palatable and makes good feed for beef or dairy cows."