Plenish® High Oleic Soybeans for On-farm Feeding

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Plenish high oleic soybeans

Shared from Inside the ZONE® newsletter, Pioneer Nutritional Sciences

Why Milk Solids Matter for Dairy Farm Profitability

There has been a surge in demand for milk protein and butterfat in the US, which has resulted in elevated prices for these milk components. To boost milk fat content, dairy farms have widely adopted feeding fat supplements that are high in palmitic acid (C16:0). However, it's necessary to keep feeding costs under control to maximize profit when milk prices are strong.

Since feed costs make up approximately 50% of milk production costs, using homegrown feeds saves money and can be an effective strategy to boost profits. This strategy also helps mitigate the risk of supply chain disruptions that could impact feed availability.

One promising option for homegrown feed is Plenish beans, which offer a high‐energy and protein feed with a desirable fatty acid profile that can replace expensive fats in the ration. The high oleic (C18:1) and low linoleic (C18:2) content of Plenish beans allows for higher dietary inclusion levels than commodity soybeans. By incorporating Plenish beans into their feeding regime, dairy farms can potentially reduce costs and improve profitability while maintaining, even improving, milk fat content.

The Two Sources of Milk Fat: Pre‐formed from Diet or Body Reserves, and De Novo Synthesis

Pre‐formed fatty acids originate from mobilized reserves or from the diet. After digestion and absorption, the udder takes these fatty acids from circulation and incorporates them into milk fat.

In addition, cows can synthesize fat in the udder (de novo) from simple volatile fatty acids, such as acetate and butyrate, precursors that derive from the fermentation of fiber by rumen microbes. Cows can assemble fatty acids de novo up to 16 carbons in length.

The Role of Fatty Acid Quantity and Quality in Dairy Cow Metabolism and Production

All rations fed to dairy cows contain fat, which can come from a variety of sources including fat supplements, forages, grains, and by‐products. The type of fat in the diet can be either saturated (no double bonds), such as palmitic acid, or unsaturated (one or more double bonds), such as linoleic acid. However, excessive dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids, also known as PUFA load, can impair activity of fiber‐digesting rumen microbes.

Ruminal biohydrogenation is a process that normally converts unsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids, detoxifying the PUFA. But, when normal ruminal fermentation is altered by low rumen pH or the mechanism is overwhelmed by excessive PUFA load, it can lead to alternative intermediates that cause Milk Fat Depression (MFD).

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) formation is part of the biohydrogenation process, but trans‐10, cis‐12 CLA formed during low ruminal pH is a potent, undesirable CLA linked to milk fat depression. Research shows that even just 3‐4 grams reaching the intestines can dramatically reduce milk fat synthesis [1].

Common Feeds High in Linoleic Acid: Corn Silage, Corn Grain, Soybeans, and their By‐Products

Corn silage is the primary forage choice for dairy farmers due to its high tonnage, nutritional qualities, and cost‐effectiveness. However, even though it is low in fat content, it contains a significant amount of linoleic acid. When included in large amounts, corn silage can add to the ruminal PUFA load, which has been linked to decreased milk fat percentage [2].

It's important to note that milk fat depression can be caused by multiple concurring factors, including PUFA intake, fermentable starch, slugfeeding, and more. To successfully include high levels of corn silage in dairy rations, it’s essential to pay close attention to excessive ruminal starch digestion and lack of dietary effective fiber, in order to mitigate the risk of milk fat depression.

Plenish soybeans: High in Oleic Acid and Low in Linoleic Acid Compared to Commodity Soybeans

Soybeans are a valuable source of protein, that also contains a high level of fat at about 20%. Roasting is a common practice to prevent rancidity, enhance palatability, and improve ruminal undegraded protein (RUP). However, feeding commodity soybeans at high levels, especially when the oil in the beans is exposed through grinding, can lead to significant milk fat depression.

Plenish soybeans, with 75% oleic acid and only 9.5% polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, including linoleic), compared to conventional soybeans with 22% oleic acid and 63% PUFAs, represent a groundbreaking innovation in dairy nutrition, allowing for a shift in the way nutritionists formulate rations.

Scientific Evidence: University Research Supports Positive Effects of Plenish Soybeans

  1. Penn State University [3], researchers compared Plenish vs. commodity extruded soybean meal at the same inclusion rate (17% of diet DM), and same fat in the ration (4% of diet DM). Neither intakes nor milk yield were affected (27 kg DM/d, and 42 kg/d). However, milk fat increased 0.2% (3.55 to 3.74%). In addition, it was reported that PUFA in milk decreased ~50% (from 4.93 to 2.49%), which is consistent with the fatty acid profile of the diets. Researchers concluded that high oleic beans are likely to increase milk fat concentration and yield, with no negative effects in intake, or the yields of milk or protein.
  2. University of Wisconsin [4], researchers compared Plenish and commodity soybeans fed either whole or ground. Inclusion was ~17% of diet DM and fat ~7% of diet DM. Intakes were not affected; however, milk fat increased when Plenish beans were fed ground (3.09 vs. 3.50 %), but not when fed whole (3.40 vs. 3.53%). Similarly, milk fat yield increased significantly when Plenish beans were fed ground (1.49 vs. 1.64 kg/d), but not when fed whole.
  3. Michigan State University [5], compared increasing rates of inclusion as high as 16 lb/d. Diets contained roasted Plenish beans (HOSB) at 0, 8, 16, and 24% of diet DM. Results indicated a decline of 1.6 lb/d in DMI with increasing levels of inclusion, thus improving feed efficiency. Milk and milk fat yield increased 9 lb/d and 0.35 lb/d, leading to an overall increase in energy corrected milk (ECM).

To roast or not to roast?

Typically, roasting costs $25‐$35 per ton. Losses by open flame roasting are near 12%; about half is water, the rest are pods and hulls that have feed value. If using electric or hot air, loss is mostly water. Improper roasting (too hot, too long) can decrease protein value, because its binding with sugars (Maillard reaction, ↑ADIN)

Roasting improves palatability and prevents oil rancidity. It doubles protein escape from the rumen (↑RUP, by‐pass). In addition, denatures trypsin inhibitor and urease (thus allowing for urea use in rations). If roasting is not possible, feeding quartered beans is better than whole.


  1. Overton, T.R. Feeding for High Components in Herd Health and Nutrition Conference. 2017. Liverpool, NY: PRO‐DAIRY, Cornell University.
  2. Diaz, F. Effects of Linoleic Fatty Acid Intake on Milk Fat Production. Dellait, 2020.
  3. Lopes, J.C., et al., Effect of High‐Oleic‐Acid Soybeans on Production Performance, Milk Fatty Acid Composition, and Enteric Methane Emission in Dairy Cows. J Dairy Sci, 2017. 100(2): p. 1122‐1135.
  4. Weld, K. and L. Armentano, Feeding High Oleic Acid Soybeans in Place of Conventional Soybeans Increases Milk Fat Concentration. J Dairy Sci, 2018. 101(11): p. 9768‐9776.
  5. Bales, A.M. and A.L. Lock. Harnessing the Potential of a High Oleic Acid Soybean to Improve Milk Production Responses of High Producing Dairy Cows. in Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference. 2023. Mt. Pleasant, MI: Michigan State University.

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