Return to Canola Council Home

Canola Meal for Dairy


Canola meal makes ration balancing simple. The superior amino acid profile, along with a high percentage of rumen bypass protein has repeatedly been shown to support milk production with lower amounts of protein, resulting in lower levels of milk urea nitrogen (MUN) and less waste.

Canola meal is a well-researched feed ingredient for dairy cows that consistently provides value for producers, as shown in recent academic studies. Field trials conducted in Wisconsin have shown that canola meal can be an alternative for animal proteins and can also be used to replace the high bypass protein soybean meal products that are often needed in rations balanced for amino acids.

The following are some ways canola meal provides value to dairy producers:

  • Mid-lactation cows fed canola meal as their primary protein source average 2.2 pounds more milk per day when compared to cows fed primarily soybean meal (Huhtanen et al., 2011).
  • Canola meal in early lactation has been shown to get cows off to a good start, with even higher production. Cows receiving canola meal produced 4 kg/day more energy corrected in one trial
  • Cows find canola meal highly palatable. Recent studies have demonstrated that cows will readily consume 20 percent of their diet as canola meal.
  • Canola meal has been proven to pair well with high-forage diets, as well as with a variety of grains and starch levels.
  • Canola meal is a rich source of phosphorus, often a costly required nutrient.

Click any of the links below to learn more about:


When picking protein sources for dairy rations, the stress has historically been on the crude-protein levels of protein sources. More protein is always better, right? Not necessarily. Cows need the right protein, in the right place. When these requirements are met, the cow uses protein in the most efficient way possible, meaning less protein ends up in the manure pile. Fortunately, canola meal provides the right protein, in the right place, at the right time.

Canola meal has more rumen undegraded protein, or bypass protein, than many other frequently used protein sources. When protein enters a cow’s rumen, rumen microbes break down, or degrade, a fraction of the available protein. The remaining protein bypasses the cow’s rumen and becomes available to satisfy the cow’s amino acid requirements. This means that while it may not always beat other protein sources in crude protein levels, a high portion of canola meal’s protein makes it through the cow’s rumen, putting the protein right where the cow needs it to produce milk. See how canola meal stacks up against soybean meal when it comes to bypass protein in the table below. Feeding canola meal means better feeding efficiency and higher milk production for dairy operations.

Pound for pound, canola meal provides as much digestible RUP as soybean meal, even with its lower crude protein levels. The RUP in canola meal provides more available methionine and histidine than soybean meal, and about 90% as much available lysine, as shown in the table below. Although high protein distiller’s grains supplies more digestible RUP than either soybean meal or canola meal, it fails to supply the amino acids most critical for milk production, and much more would be needed in the diet to supply the amino acids.

Protein Soybean meal-44% Hi-Pro Distillers’ Canola meal
Crude protein, % of dry matter 49.2 40.0 42.0
% of protein bypassing (RUP)1 41.5 63.6 52.5
RUP, % of dry matter 20.4 25.4 22.0
Digestibility of the RUP, %2 75.6 68.8 71.3
Digestible RUP, % of meal dry matter 15.4 17.5 15.7
Amino Acids
Digestible methionine, g/lb 1.1 1.7 1.7
Digestible lysine, g/lb 4.7 2.5 4.3
Digestible histidine, g/lb 2.1 2.3 2.8

1 Maxin, G., Ouellet, D.R. and Lapierre, H., 2013.

2 Ross, D.A., Gutierrez-Botero, M.  and Van Amburgh, M.E. 2013.



Another way canola meal provides value is through its amino acid profile. A high level of bypass protein combined with canola meal’s unique amino acid profile not only helps cows optimize milk production, but also supports the production of high-quality milk.

Canola meal’s amino acid profile helps explain the consistent milk yield response when canola meal is included in rations. In a summary of 24 research trials with canola meal included in dairy diets, the average milk production response was an additional 2.2 pounds of milk per day, per cow. With results like that, canola meal is a must-try for all dairy producers looking to increase profits and efficiencies in their operation. Canola’s amino acid pattern matches that of milk more closely than other vegetable protein sources (Table below) and therefore is utilized more efficiently.

Ingredient and rumen microbe amino acid composition as compared milk essential amino acid (EAA) composition (The first limiting amino acid is highlighted for each source)

Milk1 EAA Rumen2 Microbes Corn DDGS
Soybean Meal Corn Gluten Cottonseed Meal Canola Meal
% of Amount in Milk
Methionine 2.50 88 79 53 95 56 84
Lysine 8.00 101 35 76 21 50 68
Arginine 3.38 140 127 216 93 342 191
Threonine 4.31 124 86 90 77 71 97
Leucine 9.65 82 121 78 169 57 63
Isoleucine 5.12 112 71 89 78 59 66
Histidine 2.73 69 97 96 74 100 132
Phenylalanine 4.94 108 99 102 125 107 81
Tryprophan 0.90 131 89 148 60 136 143
Valine 5.60 102 87 84 81 75 91

1 Lee, C., Giallongo, F., Hristov, A.N., Lapierre, H., Cassidy, T.W., Heyler, K.S., Varga, G.A. and Parys, C., 2015.

2 Sok, M., Ouellet, D.R., Firkins, J.L., Pellerin, D.and Lapierre, H., 2017.


Another way we can look at this is through canola meal’s milk protein score. Feed ingredients are sometimes  given milk protein scores as another way to measure their value. The milk protein score takes the amino acid profile of protein sources and compares it to the amino acid composition of milk itself. Canola meal has the highest milk protein score among vegetable-based protein sources, including soybean meal. A high milk protein score equals high-quality milk.


1 Schingoethe, D. J. 1996.


Canola meal’s bypass protein levels and great milk protein score combine to support high levels of components in milk. Milk components, or the fat and protein portions of milk, are important because they are indicative of high-quality milk, and could mean more milk check premiums for dairy producers.

As the table below illustrates, daily protein and fat yields increased when canola meal replaced either soybean meal or cottonseed meal in diets for high-producing dairy cows.

000320-CAN Tables_k24

Another study also illustrated canola meal’s value when it comes to milk components, as compared to soybean meal:

000320-CAN Tables_k24-performance of dairy

These results are consistent with newer research that now recognizes that the soluble fraction of protein meals is not all degraded in the rumen, and some of the soluble protein from both soybean meal and canola meal will bypass the rumen. For more information, you can check out recent research abstracts and visit the Dairy Blog.


Want more information on canola meal and dairy cows? Refer to our Dairy Feed Guide and check out some of the dairy-specific resources below:

Recent Research Abstracts:


Recently Published Articles: 


Commitment to accuracy: the 2019 canola meal dairy feed guide

February 1, 2020 Industry Voice

Canola meal in dairy rations: New research explains why use of this high-protein ingredient has increased in many countries.

July 24, 2020 By Treena Hein

Canola Meal: Too Often Overlooked in Dairy Cattle Nutrition Programs

November 2, 2019 Les Berghorn and Essi Evans

Dairy cows on canola meal diets may outperform those on soybean meal

May 29, 2019 by Aerin Einstein-Curtis

Canola meal boosts milk performance in dairy cattle trials

November 20, 2018

New Dairy Trial Shows Value of Canola Meal

October 17, 2018

6 reasons to consider canola meal

September 2018 by Essi Evans

Best practices for feeding canola meal to dairy cows

July 5, 2018 No Particular Author

The True Value of Feeding Canola Meal

2018 Timothy Mutsvangwa

Canola Meal Research Shows an Increase in Milk Production and Feed Cost Savings

December, 2017

Comparison of Feed Proteins for Dairy Cows takes Careful Thought

June 5, 2017 Glen Broderick, Essi Evans and Brittany Dyck

Canola Meal in Cows’ diet beats the competition

March 23, 2017 By Barb Glen

Canola meal edges soybean meal as dairy cow protein source

February, 2016 Glen Broderick

Seven Ways to Ensure Efficient Use of Protein by Dairy Cows

Sept 11, 2015 Brittany Dyck, Carson Callum and Essi Evans

Avoid Too Much of a Good Thing: Protein

May 2015 Brittany Dyck and Essi Evans

Meeting methionine requirements across livestock species with Canola Meal

January 5, 2015 Industry Voice

Canola Meal and High-Forage Diets Go Hand and Hand

August 2014 Essi Evans

Canola Meal and Distillers Grains: A Match Made in Heaven

October 31, 2013 Essi Evans

Evaluating Dairy Ration Proteins: When Do They Pay?

Brittany Dyck and Essi Evans

Feeding Value of Canola Meal in Dairy Rations Evaluated

New Dairy Trials Show Value of Canola Meal

Recent Conference Proceedings:


Privacy & Cookies: This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: Privacy policy
Privacy & Cookies: This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: Privacy policy