Soybean stubble grazed after harvest is a great extender of higher-quality hay or silage – not a replacement, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist.

“Frankly, I’m a little concerned that some folks may think their cows are getting more from those bean residues than what truly is there,” he says.

“Soybean stems and pods contain only about 4-6% crude protein, well below the 7-8% needed for minimum support of a dry beef cow. And even though leaves can be up to 12% protein, it’s only around one-third digestible, so that’s not much help. In fact, protein digestibility is low in all bean residues.

“Energy is even worse. TDN averages between 35 and 45% for leaves, stems and pods.” That’s even lower than it is for wheat straw. Unless cows fed soybean residues also find and eat quite a few beans, those fed only bean residue can lose weight and condition very quickly.”

This doesn’t mean soybean residues are worthless; they just need to be fed with quite a bit of higher-energy and protein feeds.

“Don’t be misled into thinking bean residues are as good or better than cornstalks. Otherwise, you and your cows will suffer the consequences,” Anderson says.