Soy Protein for Livestock Rations

By: Christine Tew

Livestock are the No. 1 user of Missouri’s soybean crop. More than 90 percent of soybean meal goes to feed poultry, hogs and cattle. Their consumption drives demand domestically, and in the global market for soy.

Soybean meal is one of many protein sources available to livestock producers. Distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) are also a common choice for Missouri producers, recognized as affordable and accessible across much of the state.

Photo courtesy of Midwest Dairy.

“We’ve heard from producers that idling ethanol plants has, rather quickly, led to a reduction in availability of DDGS,” says Matt Amick, director of biofuels and new uses for Missouri Soybean. “For producers using DDGS as a feed ingredient, limited availability can create quite a challenge and require both research into other protein and energy sources.”

Cost is one of many factors.

“Feeding livestock and poultry is a balancing act,” says Sean Cornelius of Best Axis Consulting. “As a dairy nutritionist, I am always focused on providing a diet that is healthy for the animal with a goal of providing a positive return for the producer.”

The University of Missouri Cooperative Extension Service created a feed calculator to provide guidance on using soybean meal, soybean hulls or other soy products in livestock rations. With options assuming 44 and 48 percent crude protein soybean meal, the calculator offers flexibility for comparisons with DDGS and other corn and wheat feedstocks.

“The protein that we miss from one feed source can be made up from another,” Cornelius says. “In the dairy industry, we are using more soybean meal and heat-treated soy products, along with extra corn grain and other byproducts, to make up the protein and energy space left by ingredients that are hard to get or priced out of line at the moment.”

Soybean meal remains highly competitive with DDGS, synthetic amino acids and other feedstocks.

U.S. livestock and poultry production were a 36.9 million metric ton market for domestic soybean meal in 2019, according to the American Soybean Association’s SoyStats. That demand represents the meal from roughly 1.5 billion bushels of soybeans. Internationally, work to grow preference and demand for U.S. soy continues to push those numbers upward.

The ideal diet is normally a blend of forages and feedstuffs that brings the needed fiber, protein, energy, vitamins and minerals into a ration that animals thrive on,” Cornelius says.

He encourages working with a nutritionist to tailor rations, especially when facing challenging market conditions.

For more information and to access the feed calculator, visit

Find the entire June issue of Missouri Soybean Farmer here.