URBANA, Ill. – To aid in the formulation of diets containing fermented soybean meal, researchers at the University of Illinois have determined the digestibility of energy and amino acids in this ingredient.

Hans Stein, a U of I professor of animal sciences, explained that soybean meal contains anti-nutritional factors, such as oligosaccharides and antigens that restrict its use in diets fed to weanling pigs.

Fermentation of soybean meal eliminates some of these anti-nutritional factors, making fermented soybean meal a potential lower-cost substitute for animal protein in starter diets.

Soybean meal fermented in the presence of Aspergillus oryzae and Lactobacillus subtilis recently has become available to the U.S. market, which prompted the study, Stein explained.

“Fermented soybean meal contains fewer anti-nutritional factors and is well tolerated by weanling pigs, but there is a lack of data on the digestibility of energy and amino acids, so our goal was to determine those values,” he said.

Stein’s lab conducted two experiments. In the first, they determined the concentration of digestible, metabolizable and net energy in fermented soybean meal.

In the second, they determined the standardized ileal digestibility of crude protein and amino acids. Both studies included conventional soybean meal and fish meal for comparison.

On a dry matter basis, fermented soybean meal contained 4,296 kilocalorie per kilogram digestible energy, 3,781 kilocalorie per kilogram metabolizable energy and 2,710 kilocalorie per kilogram net energy.

Stein said these values compared favorably to those in fish meal which contained 3,827 kilocalorie per kilogram DE, 3,412 kilocalorie per kilogram ME and 2,450 kilocalorie per kilogram NE.

DE, ME and NE were decreased in fermented soybean meal compared with conventional soybean meal, which contained DE, ME and NE of 4,553 kilocalorie per kilogram, 4,137 kilocalorie per kilogram and 2,972 kilocalorie per kilogram, respectively.

“Fermentation of soybean meal removes sugars and oligosaccharides. Sucrose is easily digested by pigs, and oligosaccharides are almost completely fermented. When these are removed, the remaining meal contains a greater percentage of fiber, which reduces the digestibility of energy in the diets,” Stein explained.

Digestibility of crude protein and amino acids in fermented soybean meal was the same as or greater than that of soybean meal. Digestibility values for most amino acids were greater in fermented soybean meal than in fish meal.

Stein said the results indicated that fermented soybean meal could replace fish meal in starter diets without negatively affecting the energy content or digestible amino acid content of the diets.

“With this new product on the market in the United States, producers have another option for providing protein in weanling pig diets,” he said.

The study, “Concentration of digestible, metabolizable and net energy and digestibility of energy and nutrients in fermented soybean meal, conventional soybean meal and fish meal fed to weanling pigs,” was recently published in the Journal of Animal Science and was coauthored with Oscar Rojas, a Ph.D. candidate in the Stein Monogastric Nutrition Laboratory at U of I.

It is available online at www.journalofanimalscience.org/content/91/9/4397.full.