Feeding Soybeans To Cattle

Soybeans are usually priced too high to be included in feed rations for cattle. But this year’s dicey export market, weird weather, and low soybean prices are giving cattlemen an incentive to include soybean protein in the beef diet. This also helps soybean producers who, for whatever reason, can’t sell the crop or have the space to store it.

Karl Hoppe is an Extension livestock systems specialist at North Dakota State University. He says the high fat content in soybeans has a higher energy value than corn and is a good source of protein for cattle. But on the downside, they can’t eat too much because it starts affecting rumen fermentation.

"We have to limit ourselves to around 7% fat in the diet. And, in back calculating, somewhere between 2-3 lbs. of soybeans per-head per-day would be the upper end of that inclusion into a ration for beef cattle," says Hoppe.

At the two-to-three-pound level, Hoppe says you can feed soybeans raw, and whole without roasting or heat-treating them first. However, it’s a good idea to have the them tested.

"This year, we’ve got some drought situations going on in North Dakota, so knowing just how complete the beans are, if they’re not filled out very well, they might have a higher protein content, less oil content, so knowing what you actually have in the soybeans is important," he says. "Now, most feed tests do not analyze for fat content so you’d have to ask for that to be a special test."

Producers should also consider testing soybeans for mold and mycotoxins that can impact animal health. Mold doesn’t have to be visible for mycotoxins to be present.