Beef Tips

May 2020 Feedlot Facts

“Protein Sources for Growing Cattle”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

One of the outcomes of the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation that unexpectedly affected many cattle feeding operations throughout Kansas and the Midwest was a sudden reduction in the availability of distiller’s grains. As many Americans heeded “stay at home” orders, demand for fuel, oil, and ultimately ethanol fell resulting in price declines that forced many ethanol plants to scale back production. The cattle feeding industry has relied heavily on distiller’s grains as the primary source of protein in both growing and finishing rations for many years. Distiller’s grains comprise 10-30% of many cattle rations depending upon the nutrient composition and price of other commodities. The reduced supply of distiller’s grains forced many cattle producers to look at traditional sources of protein, such as soybean meal, cottonseed meal, alfalfa and urea that many producers had not used for at least a decade. The prices of several common commodity protein sources (central, KS; obtained 4/28/2020) on a per ton and a cost per unit of protein basis are shown below. It is essential that producers evaluate protein sources on a cost per unit of protein prior to making purchasing decision. All of the traditional protein sources in the table were comparably priced on a cost per unit of protein basis ($0.44-0.49 /lb CP) with the exception of urea. However, urea must be used with caution, should not comprise more than 0.5 to 1.0% of the total diet on a dry matter basis, and it is generally recommended that urea be added into the ration using a premix or liquid to ensure that urea is appropriately mixed in the ration.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *