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Feeding Raw Soybeans to Cattle

November 2018

Whole soybeans are an excellent source of protein analyzing about 40% on a dry basis.  Whole soybeans can be included in cattle diets as a source of protein and energy.  There are circumstances where feeding the whole soybean can be an option such as soybeans that aren’t marketable because of frost damage or other quality factors.  These beans can be fed to livestock as a way to capture otherwise lost value.

The amount of soybeans that can be fed to cattle is limited due to their high fat content. Based on research, the amount of whole soybeans for cattle should be limited to 14% of diet dry matter to reduce the negative effects of the oil on fiber digestibility and nitrogen utilization. That represents about 2 pounds per head for growing calves and about 3-4 pounds for finishing cattle consuming greater quantities of feed.

Avoid feeding raw soybeans to very young, pre-ruminating calves because of trypsin inhibitor which interferes with digestion in monogastrics.  Soybeans also contain urease which breaks down urea into ammonia.  Feeding raw soybeans along with protein supplements containing urea (such as lick tubs, protein blocks, and some liquid or dry supplements) could result in ammonia toxicity and cattle death. These two obstacles can be overcome by heat treating soybeans by through either extrusion or roasting which inactivates both enzymes.