Canola Meal in Beef Cattle Diets


Gregory P. Lardy

Animal and Range Sciences Department

North Dakota State University




Canola is widely grown throughout the prairie provinces of Canada and the northern tier states in the U.S.  Canola was bred from industrial rapeseed in Canada during the 1960s.  At that time, rapeseed production was used primarily for industrial oils.  Rapeseed oil was high in erucic acid which was used as a slip agent.  Rapeseed meal had high levels of glucosinolates, a sulfur bearing glucose moiety that has a sharp or bitter flavor which can cause thyroid dysfunction in humans and animals.  Consequently, canola was developed as an oilseed which could be economically grown in Canadian prairie climates and produce a food-grade oil.  Canola contains less than two percent erucic acid (as a percent of oil) and less than 30 Fmoles of alkenyl glucosinolates per gram of oil free dry matter of the seed (Bell, 1993).  Rapeseed typically contains 25 to 45 percent erucic acid and the meal contains 50 to 100 Fmoles of glucosinolates.  The name canola was derived from “Canadian oil”.  In some parts of Europe, canola is referred to as “double zero rapeseed” referring to the fact that canola is low in glucosinolates and low in erucic acid (Hickling, 2001). 


Canola is a small diameter seed (1-2 mm) containing approximately 42-43 percent oil.  The hull makes up a significant amount of the seed weight (approximately 16%; Bell, 1993).


Canola production in the United States has been increasing.  Canola acreage and production in North Dakota (the principal producing state) and the U.S. is shown in Table 1 (NASS, 2002).  North Dakota accounts for approximately 88 to 90 percent of the acreage and production of canola in the United States.  The crop has found favor from farmers in northern states searching for a cool-season broadleaf crop to use in rotations with small grains.


Table 1.  Canola acreage and production in North Dakota and the United States.






Acreage (1,000 Acres)

ND Acreage




US Acreage









Production (1,000,000 pounds)

ND Production




U.S. Production




Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2002 Acreage and Production Report.

















Canola Meal

Canola meal is produced from canola seed following oil extraction.  Canola seed is traditionally produced by crushing and solvent extraction processes common in the oilseed processing industry.  The process usually includes seed cleaning, seed preconditioning and flaking, seed cooking, mechanical oil extraction through crushing, solvent extraction of the press cake, desolventizing and toasting (Hickling, 2001).  In some cases, “gums” or the remaining phospholipid material removed during canola processing and the acidulated soapstocks may be added back to the canola meal prior to marketing the meal.  This has two purposes; it serves as a way to market the residual materials produced during oil extraction and refining, and it serves as a method to increase energy density and reduce the dustiness of the meal (Hickling, 2001). 


Most commercial canola processing plants are located in the northern tier of states in the U.S. and in the prairie provinces of Canada.  Canadian production of canola meal has ranged from a high of 1,995,000 metric tons in 1997-1998 to a low of 1,858,000 tons in 1999-2000 production year (Hickling, 2001).  Worldwide, canola and rapeseed meal are the second most widely traded protein ingredients used in livestock rations (Hickling, 2001).  The composition of canola meal is shown in Table 2. 


Table 2.  Nutrient Analysis of Canola Meal Compared to Soybean Meal


Canola Meal

Soybean Meal

International Feed Number



TDN, %



Nem (Mcal/kg)



Neg (Mcal/kg)



CP, %



Ruminal Undegradability, % of CP



Ether Extract, %



NDF, %



ADF, %



Calcium, %



Phosphorus, %



Magnesium, %



Potassium, %



Sulfur, %



Copper, mg/kg



Manganese, mg/kg



Zinc, mg/kg



Table Adapted from Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle, 7th Ed. (1996).


Protein Content

Canola meal is lower in crude protein than soybean meal (NRC, 1996; Table 2).  Canola meal contains approximately 40 percent crude protein compared to 49 percent crude protein for soybean meal.  Laboratory analysis of canola meal from samples collected at NDSU suggests some lots may run as high as 44 percent crude protein (Anderson, 2002).


Ruminal Protein Degradability

Depending on the processing method, ruminal escape or bypass protein of canola meal is slightly lower or similar to soybean meal (Hill, 1991).  Zinn (1993) reported ruminal degradabilities for canola meal to be slightly lower than for soybean meal.  DePeters and Bath (1986) reported that canola meal was similar in degradability to cottonseed meal when incubated in situ.


Numerous research studies have examined methods to increase ruminal bypass of canola meal as a method to increase its value in the marketplace.  Methods tested have included formaldehyde treatment, sodium hydroxide, acetic, formic, proprionic, and hydorchloric acids, heat treatment, and extrusion.  McKinnon et al. (1991) found that heating canola meal for 10 minutes at 125E C reduced protein degradability from 58 to 30 percent.   


Digestible Energy Content

One of the criticisms of canola meal is its lower digestible energy content compared to soybean meal.  Much of this can be attributed to the increased proportion of hull (as a percentage of seed or meal weight) compared to soybean meal.  Bell (1993) reported the hull represents about 16 percent of the seed weight and about 30 percent of the meal by weight.  Canola meal contains up to three times as much crude fiber as soybean meal.  This fiber tends to be lower in digestibility and consequently results in lower energy content of the meal.  Bell and Shires (1982) reported that the digestibility of the hull fraction in hogs was 30 percent for yellow hulled varieties and 2 percent for brown hulled varieties.  Lardy et al. (1993) reported low hull digestibility in rapeseed meal when samples were incubated in situ.  Dehulling the meal has resulted in reduced fiber content of the meal with  improvements in digestible energy content (Bell, 1993).  However, with current processing and crushing technology, canola  is still primarily crushed as intact seed, and consequently the hulls remain in the meal.


Factors Affecting Nutrient Content of the Meal

A variety of factors, including environmental conditions during plant growth, harvest conditions, bulk density and others, influence the nutrient content of canola meal.  Minor factors influencing the nutrient content of the meal include varietal differences in canola seed, and processing of the seed and meal during oil extraction and meal production (Hickling, 2001).  Kendall et al. (1991) reported variations in protein degradability for canola meal differed between plants.  However, when they measured essential amino acid content of residues following in situ incubation for 12 to 16 hours there was little difference between samples.  Canola meal had higher ruminal escape values compared to soybean meal.


Canola Meal in Diets for Calves

Claypool et al. (1985) compared soybean meal, cottonseed meal, and canola meal as ingredients in starter rations for 45-day-old Holstein calves.  They reported no differences in calf performance during preweaning or postweaning.  British researchers reported no adverse effects on intake or calf performance when comparing canola meal to soybean meal as a protein supplement for 160 kg calves (Hill et al., 1990).  Beauchemin et al. (1995) utilized canola meal as an ingredient in creep feeds for nursing calves grazing irrigated pastures.  They compared canola meal, heat-treated canola meal, lignosulfate-treated canola meal, and dried distillers grains as the main ingredients in creep feeds.  Calves fed creep feed gained more weight than calves not offered a creep feed.  No differences among the various canola meal treatments were detected.  These authors also measured ruminal degradability of the various canola meals used in this trial using the in situ procedure.  They noted that chemical or heat treatment of canola meal reduced the protein degradability of the meal.  However, no differences in calf performance were noted in the creep feeding trial, likely indicating that escape or metabolizable protein was not limiting for the calves in this experiment.  These authors did note increased cow weight gains and back fat deposition when calves were fed lignosulfate-treated canola meal creep feed compared to untreated canola or the unsupplemented control group. 


Canola Meal in Diets for Growing and Finishing Cattle

Petit and Veira (1994a) reported increased weight gains in growing calves fed grass silage-based diets and supplemented with canola meal.  Petit and Veira (1994b) reported digestion characteristics of various combinations of molasses and canola meal as supplements for diets based on timothy silage.  Supplemental canola meal improved crude protein and energy digestibility but decreased ADF digestibility.  Petit et al. (1994) fed the same treatment to finishing steer calves and reported increased average daily gain, reduced days on feed, and similar carcass data in steers fed supplemental canola meal compared to steers fed only timothy silage. 


Zinn (1993) compared a standard canola meal (40% CP), a higher protein canola meal (46% CP), and SBM as protein sources for feedlot cattle fed high-grain finishing diets.  There were no differences between the two canola meal sources.  Total tract digestibility and digestible energy content of soybean meal tended to be higher than either of the canola meals.  Ruminal degradability of protein was lower for the canola meal than for the soybean meal.  No other differences were noted.


Hinman et al. (1999) compared five different combinations of canola meal and urea  as supplemental protein sources in finishing diets for beef steers.  Treatments were 0% canola meal /100% urea; 25% canola meal /75% urea; 50% canola meal /50% urea; 75% canola meal/25% urea; and 100% canola meal/0% urea as percentages of the supplemental protein supplied by either canola meal or urea.  The finishing diets were based on barley and potato processing residue.  They noted no differences in average daily gain with the various combinations of urea and canola meal.  However, they did note improved feed efficiency with the 25% canola meal level.  Rib eye area was greater for the 100% canola meal treatment than the 0% canola meal treatment.  However, marbling score was higher for steers fed 0% canola meal compared to steers fed either the 50% or 75% canola meal treatments.  Yield grade was improved for the steers fed 25% canola meal compared to 0, 50, or 100% canola meal treatments.  Based on the performance and carcass data, the authors noted that feeding canola meal resulted in an increased return of $14.50 per head. 


Canola Meal for Beef Cows

Research conducted at Colorado State University investigated the effectiveness of canola meal as a supplement for range cows (Patterson et al., 1999a).  This research indicated that canola meal supported similar performance compared to cull Great Northern beans fed at the same level of crude protein or sunflower meal fed either at one-half of the crude protein level of canola meal or the same level of crude protein as canola meal.  Calves from dams fed canola meal had greater weight gains during the supplementation period than did calves fed cull Great Northern beans or the low level of sunflower meal.  Patterson et al. (1999b) evaluated the effects of these supplement treatments on ruminal fermentation and digestion kinetics.  They noted no differences between treatments for dry matter or nitrogen degradation rates.  There was a tendency (P = .13) for canola meal to have a greater extent of dry matter digestion compared to sunflower meal. 


DePeters and Bath (1986) compared canola meal to cottonseed meal as a protein source for lactating dairy cows.  They reported no differences in milk yield or milk composition with either protein source.  They also reported no differences in ruminal fermentation patterns for ammonia or volatile fatty acids with either protein source.


Summary and Conclusions

Canola meal appears to be a good source of supplemental protein for beef cattle.  The ruminal escape value is similar to soybean meal with some variation due to processing plant, canola variety, and other conditions.  Canola meal is an effective supplement for nursing calves, growing and finishing cattle, and beef cows.  Decisions on the use of canola meal in beef cattle operations should be based on cost and availability of competing protein supplements.


Literature Cited

Anderson, V.A. 2002. Personal communcation.

Beauchemin,K.A., Bailey,D.R.C., McAllister,T.A., and Cheng,K.J. 1995. Lignosulfonate-treated canola meal for nursing beef calves. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 75:559-565.

Bell, J.M. 1993. Factors affecting the nutritional value of canola meal: A review. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 73:679-697.

Bell, J.M. and A. Shires. 1982. Composition and digestibility by pigs of hull fractions from rapeseed cultivars with yellow or brown seed coats. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 62:557-565.

Claypool, D.W., C.H. Hoffman, J.E. Oldfield, and H.P. Adams. 1985. Canola meal, cottonseed meal, and soybean meals as protein supplements for calves. J. Dairy Sci. 68:67-70.

DePeters, D.J. and D.L. Bath. 1986. Canola meal versus cottonseed meal as the protein supplement in dairy diets. J. Dairy Sci. 69:148-154.

Hickling, D. 2001. Canola meal feed industry guide. Third edition. Canola Council of Canada, Winnipeg, MB.

Hill, R. 1991. Rapeseed meal in the diets of ruminants. Nutr. Abstr. Rev. 61:139-155.

Hill, R., I.C. Vincent, and J. Thompson. 1990. The effects of food intake in weaned calves of low glucosinolate rapeseed meal as the sole protein supplement. Anim. Prod. 50:586-587.

Hinman, D.D., S.J. Sorensen, P.A. Momont, and L. Spiece. 1999. Canola meal compared with urea in a barley and potato processing residue finishing diet for feedlot steers. Prof. Anim. Sci. 15:191-195.

Lardy, G.P., G.E. Catlett, M.S. Kerley and J.A. Paterson. 1993.  Determination of ruminal escape value and duodenal amino acid flow of rapeseed meal. J. Anim. Sci. 71:3096-3104.

Kendall, E.M., J.R. Ingalls, and R.J. Boila. 1991. Variability in the rumen degradability and postruminal digestion of the dry matter, nitrogen, and amino acids of canola meal. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 71:739-754.

McKinnon, J.J., J.A. Olubobokun, D.A. Christensen, and R.D.H. Cohen, 1991. The influence of heat and chemical treatment on ruminal disappearance of canola meal. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 71:773-780.

NASS. 2002. Crop Production, 2001 Summary. Accessed Feb. 26, 2002.

Patterson, H.H., J.C. Whittier, L.R. Rittenhouse, and D.N. Schutz. 1999a. Performance of beef cows receiving cull beans, sunflower meal, and canola meal as protein supplements while grazing native winter range in eastern Colorado.  J. Anim. Sci. 77:750-755.

Patterson, H.H., J.C. Whittier, and L.R. Rittenhouse. 1999b. Effects of cull beans, sunflower meal, and canola meal as protein supplements to beef steers consuming grass hay on in situ digestion kinetics. Prof. Anim. Sci. 15:185-190.

Petit, H.V. and D.M. Veira. 1994a. Effect of post-weaning protein supplementation of beef steers fed grass silage on performance during the finishing phase, and carcass quality. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 74:699-701.

Petit, H.V. and Veira,D.M. 1994b. Digestion characteristics of beef steers fed silage and different levels of energy with or without protein supplementation. J Anim. Sci. 72:3213_3220.

Petit, H.V..Veira D.M. and Yu, Y. 1994. Growth and carcass characteristics of beef steers fed silage and different levels of energy with or without protein supplementation. J Anim. Sci. 72:3221_3229.

Zinn, R.A. 1993. Characteristics of ruminal and total tract digestion of canola meal and soybean meal in a high_energy diet for feedlot cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 71:796_801.


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