Feeding whole soybeans and drought- or frost-damaged soybeans to beef cattle
High-quality soybeans and damaged soybeans can serve as an excellent source of energy and protein in beef cattle rations and supplements. All too frequently in Oklahoma, late summer heat and drought result in a significant proportion of the soybean crop being damaged in terms of size, color, weight, and nutrient content.
This damaged grain may not be merchantable at many grain elevators, or if the damage is only moderate, it may receive a severe market discount. Consequently, beef cattle producers should consider the opportunity to incorporate soybeans into their feeding programs when the soy market is depressed or when drought- or frost-damaged soy are available at low prices.
Whole soybeans typically contain 38 to 42 percent crude protein and 16 to 20 percent fat (dry matter basis).
However, drought-damaged soybeans - particularly green-colored beans - generally have lower protein (anywhere from 25 to 38 percent) and fat (14 to 18 percent).
Consequently, as in most animal feeding situations where uncommon or variable feedstuffs are used, a nutrient analysis from a commercial laboratory is advised.
Whole raw soybeans have been shown to be an effective protein supplement compared to soybean meal in a lowquality hay diet (6.5 percent protein) for growing steers in one Oregon study.
In a Kentucky study, growing steers were fed whole soybeans or soybean meal as the protein source in corn silage rations. Weight gain and feed efficiency was similar for both protein sources.
When whole soybeans are fed to cattle receiving a roughage-based diet, cattlemen have noticed that some of the beans apparently escape digestion and are passed through the feces.
In order to quantify the feeding value of whole and rolled drought damaged soybeans, a winter study was conducted with gestating beef cows.
The treatment period was continued for a total of 88 days.
Supplement treatments consisted of whole soybeans, rolled soybeans, a more traditional supplement formulated with soybean meal and soybean hulls, and a non-supplemented (Control) group. The"traditional" - treatment was formulated to deliver equal CP and calories or TDN compared to the whole and rolled soybean treatments.
Results from this experiment confirm previous studies demonstrating the importance of protein supplementation.
Cows that received the traditional supplement weighed 176 pounds more at the beginning of the calving season compared to cows that were not supplemented. Some of the dramatic difference in weight change, spring and summer milk production and the resulting difference in calf weaning weight may be due to the extreme wet, cold conditions of the winter of 2000/2001. Other research has shown that cattle respond
more to supplementation during hard winters.
Whole soybeans and drought- or frost-damaged soybeans can be useful nutrient sources for beef cattle. Occasionally, they can be used to cheapen ration costs for grazing and feedlot cattle. However, the amount that can be added to beef cattle rations is limited because soybeans contain high concentrations of fat. Producers should also heed the various other precautions and considerations noted above before feeding this concentrated source of energy and protein to cattle.
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Article made possible through the contribution of the Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.