Soybeans may be option for cattle feed

Sep 17, 2018

As soybean prices continue to fall amid deteriorating trade talks and the possibility of more tariffs, farmers may have another option to consider when it comes to moving their crops.

NDSU Extension livestock systems specialist Karl Hoppe says soybeans are an acceptable supplemental feed for beef cattle.

"They actually can work out pretty nice, because the feeds that we feed might be limited in protein as well as energy - soybeans are a nice mix, since they are high in protein, 40 percent protein, and then the fat content is at 20 percent which adds a nice energy to the ration."

Hoppe says the level of fat in soybeans does limit the total amount of soybeans that can be fed to a cow, but overall the crop can be a useful supplement in the diet of beef cattle. He says this may be one option for farmers who won't be able to sell their soybeans into trade, or for a farmer whose beans didn't quite mature this season.

"This year, at least in the Carrington area, we're seeing a lot of soybeans that are dried out and being harvested in the low areas - we've had a drought this year - where soybeans have a little extra moisture so they're green. With that, that's usually not something the trade wants to have. But that is something we can feed to our cattle. So that's an option to at least find a market for somebody who wants to feed green soybeans."

Hoppe says beef cattle are able to better tolerate soybeans in their diet than swine. He says soybeans fed to swine need to be heat-treated, but that's not the case for beef cattle. He says soybeans can be rationed into about 20 percent of a beef cattle's diet. Hoppe says soybeans have usually been too expensive to be used as cattle feed, but trade disputes that have limited US soybean exports has made them a more affordable feed option.