Protein sources for cattle

Ingredients that contain more than 18% of their total weight in crude protein are generally classified as protein feeds. Protein is one of the critical nutrients particularly for the young rapidly growing animal and high producing adults, although, it may be secondary to energy or other nu


In addition, protein supplements are usually more expensive than energy feeds, so optimal use is a must for any practical feeding system. Protein supplements may be further categorized according to source of origin as i) plant protein ii) animal protein

iii) non protein nitrogen and iv) single cell  protein.

Plants provide more than 90% of the protein feeds used in livestock rations. Most protein feeds of plant origin consist of processed oilseeds. Millings by-products generally make up the remainder of the plant protein feeds. Many protein feeds of animal origin are derived from sources that are considered unsuitable for human consumption. Many proteins of mammalian origin are banned for use in feeding of cattle because of the threat of mad cow disease.

Protein sources for cattle
Commonly used and potential plant protein sources for cattle


Scientific name

Area grown


Potential yield

Soybean meal

Glycine max

18 433



Sunflower meal

Helianthus annuus

15 460


3 000


Phaseolus vulgaris

106 627


2 500

Ground nuts

Arachis hypogaea

95 399


2 400

Pigeon peas

Cajanus cajan

87 758


2 500


Vignia unguiculata

48 157


2 000

Chick peas

Cicer arietinum

1 070


2 000

Bambara or groundbeans

Vigna subterranea

3 128


3 000


Sesamum indicum



1 000

Green grams

Vigna aureus

1 216


2 000

 Plant proteins

The bulk of the protein of ruminants comes from plant sources. The protein content of   plant varies considerably from one type to another. Even within the same plant, there is considerable variation from one stage of maturity to another or from one part of the plant   to another. Proteins in plants are primarily associated with the tissues which are actively metabolizing such as leaves, centers of growth and the seeds. Eventhough they are not


especially high in protein by comparison with other feedstuffs, the vegetative portions of many plants supply an extremely large portion of the protein in the total ration of livestock, simply because these portion of feeds are consumed in large quantities. Needed protein not provided in these feeds is commonly obtained from one or more of the oilseed   by-products

–soybean meal, cottonseed meal, groundnut meal, safflower meal, sunflower meal, rapeseed meal linseed meal, sesamum meal and coconut meal. The protein content and feeding value of these products vary according to the seed from which they are produced, the amount     of hull and/or seed coat included and the method of oil extraction used. Sometimes the unprocessed seed is used to provide both a source of protein and a concentrated source     of energy. The oil bearing seeds are especially high in energy because of the oil they  contain.

Additional plant proteins are obtained as by-products from grain milling, brewing  and distilling and starch production. Most of these industries use the starch from grains and seeds, then dispose of the residue which contains a large portion of the protein of the original plant seed.