Soybeans are a popular choice of animal feed because of their high protein content. They are easy to grow during the summer and are ready to harvest in around 80 days after the seeds have been planted in warm soil. Storing your crop of soybeans for animal feed requires some care, and we will look at this in more detail here.
What You'll Learn Today
- Factors Affecting Soybean Storage
- Storing Soybeans for Animal Feed
- Storage Containers
- Frequently Asked Questions
Factors Affecting Soybean Storage
Four important factors affect soybean storage. These are:
- Moisture content
1. Moisture Content
Moisture presents various problems when it comes to soybean storage. If the seeds are too damp and warm, they are prone to go moldy.
Mold can make the seeds rancid, or if you want to use some for reseeding a new crop, germination may be reduced.
There are two types of moisture at play – free moisture, which is restricted to the outside of the seed, and bound moisture, which is locked inside of the grain at a molecular level. Free moisture can be reduced by drying the seed, but bound moisture cannot.
Soybeans are naturally a hygroscopic material. This means they can gain and lose moisture directly from the air around them.
The amount of moisture a soybean can lose or absorb depends on how it is kept and its exposure to the atmosphere. In developing countries, soybeans are kept in jute sacks.
This is because the sacks have a loose weave and are made of a natural fabric that allows the beans to stay ventilated and cool.
Where soybeans are kept in bulk storage containers such as grain silos, aeration and cooling must be controlled with vents and fans.
This type of storage is usually more prevalent on larger farms, although smaller-sized silos are available.
Fungi growth and oxidation happens to stored soybeans when temperatures are too high. It also increases the risk of insect infestation.
If the soybeans can be kept at a moisture content of between 14 to 14.3% and a temperature of between 41°F to 46°F, they can be successfully stored without mold damage for more than two years.
Keeping soybeans at a moisture content of below 10.5% allows them to be kept at any temperature without the risk of mold, but insect attack can happen if the temperature rises above 68°F
Air movement within the grain is influenced by the temperature of the air outside the storage container. In bulk storage, it causes temperature fluctuations that can cause the seed to spoil.
This is partly due to the insulating properties of grain, as temperature fluctuations, even if they are minimal, can be cumulative.
It is best to avoid storing grain in metal bins in hot and humid conditions due to the grain sweating when moisture condenses against the sides of the metal wall. They also heat the grain to very high temperatures on a hot day.
The rapid cooling of the metal overnight creates condensation build-up.
There are a variety of pests that can affect your stored soybeans. These include:
- Other animals
It is essential to monitor your stores regularly and take prompt action should you see any evidence of pests.
Insects such as grain beetles can be limited by keeping the grain cool, ideally below 60°F. At this temperature, the majority of insect species cannot survive for long.
Vermin such as rats and mice can not only eat the crop but contaminate it affecting its quality.
Birds will eat any spilled grain or any that is left open. But the main threat comes from roosting birds whose droppings can contaminate the grain and introduce bacteria and promote mold growth.
The length of time a soybean crop can be successfully stored depends on all three points mentioned above.
In addition to this, another factor is also at play, time. As with any organic matter, over time, it will naturally begin to deteriorate.
If kept in optimum conditions, soybeans can be kept for up to 3 years.
Storing Soybeans for Animal Feed
If you grow your own soybeans, it is important that you harvest them at the right time. The beans must be fully mature, or their moisture content will be too high.
Requirements of Soybean Storage
Before choosing which storage system to use, you must first understand what it needs to do. Many factors must be considered:
- Term of storage
One of the main concerns will be the cost of your chosen storage method. If you are only a small concern, then it is probable you won’t have the budget to buy the latest shiny silo with all its high-tech gadgetry.
How well the storage container you choose holds the grain and keeps it good is of the utmost importance. It will be a balancing act between efficiency and budget.
It’s often a false economy to go for the cheapest items. They don’t last and need frequent replacement.
If you’re looking to store your grain for the long term and will do so with future crops, then finding something durable is essential.
The size of the container or containers you choose will depend a lot on how much space you have.
Sacks or plastic barrels may be an easy-to-handle solution, but they take up a lot of room. A small silo that holds the grain vertically could be a more space-efficient option.
Unfortunately, just putting your crop of soybeans into a storage container and forgetting about it isn’t a good idea.
It needs to be monitored to make sure nothing bad is happening. For this reason, good access is really important.
F. Term of Storage
The length of time you want to store the grain will greatly impact your chosen storage methods.
You won’t need to be as fussy if, for example, you only want to keep it for a few months for feeding over winter. But if you require a longer-term solution, then a more significant investment may be necessary.
If you’re handy with tools, then you may want to consider making your own grain storage container. This is a great design for 1 ton of grain.
Depending on the quantity of soybeans you have to store, there are several options available.
- Jute or hessian sacks
- Plastic sacks
- Plastic barrels/drums
1. Jute or Hessian Sacks
Jute is a natural fiber mainly coming from the Corchorus Capsularis plant and is considered ecologically friendly. It can be woven into cloth to make large sacks.
- The natural fiber allows the grain to stay aerated and cool. It wicks moisture out of the grain.
- The sacks are relatively inexpensive to purchase.
- They are easy to transport.
- The sacks are made in various sizes to suit your needs.
- Once they have served their purpose, they can be disposed of easily as they will biodegrade.
- It’s easy for pests to access the grain as they won’t find the bags difficult to enter.
- Must be kept in a dry location.
- Monitoring the grain within the sacks isn’t easy.
- It shouldn’t be used for consecutive crops due to the possibility of mold, insects, damage, and so on.
2. Plastic Sacks
Strong plastic sacks are another solution similar to Jute. The main disadvantage of plastic is that it’s not environmentally friendly.
- Lots of sizes available
- Cheap to buy
- Easy to transport
- Can be recycled
- Easy to puncture or rip, making it easy for pests to invade
- Difficult to monitor grain condition
- Should be replaced after each use
Barrels or drums can be made of heavy-duty plastic or metal. Plastic is more long-lived as it won’t rust like metal. Many plastic drums have tight-fitting lids with secure, easy-to-open fastenings.
- You can clean and reuse for many years
- Come in a variety of sized
- Easy to transport
- Often stackable
- More problematic for pests to enter
- Difficult to monitor contents
- Should be kept inside a building or undercover
- Plastic isn’t biodegradable
- Need cleaning after each use
These are usually large metal containers and are capable of holding large quantities of grain.
- It can be reused many times
- Less prone to attack by pests
- Should be kept in a building or undercover
- Difficult to monitor grain
- Difficult to move
- Need to be cleaned before the next use
Silos are large, usually permanent metal structures that can be used to hold grain for extended periods. They can incorporate technology to make monitoring easy.
Buildings can be specifically built to hold the grain, and these can be made from brick, wood, or other solid building material.
- Both silos and buildings are solid and long-lasting
- They can hold a lot of grain
- Can be different sizes depending on your requirements
- Monitors, fans, heaters, and other equipment can be incorporated
- A permanent location is required
- High cost
- Specialist advice required
- Metal Silos can experience significant fluctuations in temperature and suffer from condensation
Frequently Asked Questions
Soybeans are ready to harvest when the plants have turned yellow and most of the leaves have dropped. The pods should be fully filled with beans and feel firm to the touch. It’s easy to do a casual moisture test by crushing a few beans with your teeth; if the beans are hard and break easily, they are likely ready for harvest.
Turning or rotating soybeans in storage is not necessary to keep them fresh. Proper storage conditions, including maintaining low moisture levels (below 13%) and controlling temperature and humidity, are more important factors in preserving the quality and preventing spoilage of soybeans during storage.
Repurposed plastic barrels can be used to store soybeans, but it is essential to ensure they are clean, in good condition, and free from any contaminants that could affect the quality of the stored soybeans. Make sure the barrels are food-grade and have not been previously used for storing harmful chemicals or substances.
To clean plastic or metal barrels after storing soybeans, start by removing any remaining soybean debris or residue. Then, thoroughly wash the barrels with hot water and a mild detergent. Use a scrub brush or cloth to remove any remaining dirt or stains. Rinse the barrels well to remove any detergent residue, and allow them to dry completely before storing your next crop of soybeans to prevent moisture buildup.
Jute bags are simply burlap bags made of jute. Other natural fibers can be used to make burlap bags, such as hemp or flax. Still other alternatives for natural storage of small amounts of soybean seed include cotton cloth bags, woven plastic bags or multi-wall paper bags.
To successfully store your soybeans, you must ensure you monitor the moisture content and temperature as well as regularly checking for pests.
If your crop of soybeans is harvested before it is fully ripe and dry, you will likely have big problems when it comes to storing them successfully for any length of time.
When choosing a storage method, you will need to take into consideration how much you are prepared to spend, the space you have available, how easy you need transportation to be, how easy the grain is to monitor, and how safe it will be from pests and other factors which could cause it to spoil.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning how to store soybeans. If you are interested in learning more about soybeans, here is our popular roasting guide.
We have lots more information about soybeans on our website and many other interesting articles for you to enjoy.