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Common names 

Rapeseeds, rape seeds, canola seeds, full-fat rapeseeds, full-fat canola seeds [English]; colza, colza "00" [French]; colza, raps, canola [Spanish]; colza, couve-nabiça [Portuguese]; koolzaad [Dutch]; raps [German]; kapusta rzepak [Polish]; cải dầu [Vietnamese]; السلجم [Arabic]; לפתית [Hebrew]; 油菜籽 [Chinese]; कैनोला [Hindi]; セイヨウアブラナ, 菜種 [Japanese]; Рапс [Russian]


Rapeseeds - called canola seeds in North America and other countries - are the seeds of the oilseed rape plant (Brassica napus L. and interspecific crosses of Brassica napus with other Brassica species including Brassica rapa L. and the brown mustard Brassica juncea (L.) Czern). Rapeseeds are the 3rd source of both vegetable oil (after soybean and oil palm) and oil meal (after soybean and cotton). They are the most widely cultivated crop species in the Brassicaceae family, which also includes cabbages, mustards, turnips, radishes and cauliflowers. There is a very wide range of rapeseed varieties for all types of purposes (Snowdon, 2006). Modern rapeseed varieties with low concentrations in erucic acid and glucosinolates (see below) are mainly used for edible oil, biofuel, industrial oil and lubricants. Rapeseeds are also a valuable energy feed for livestock due to their high protein and lipid content.

Low-erucic and low-glucosinolates varieties

Oilseed rape has been cultivated for its oil in Europe since the 13th century, and was a major source of lamp fuel until it was superseded by petroleum in the mid-19th century. Rapeseed oil as a foodstuff used to have a poor reputation, due to the presence of erucic acid, which has a bitter taste and was later found to cause health problems when ingested in large quantities. The use of rapeseeds and rapeseed oil meal for livestock was limited due to the presence of glucosinolates, which are antinutritional factors detrimental to animal performance. In the 1960-1970s, low-erucic varieties ("0") and low-erucic, low-glucosinolates varieties ("00" and canola) were developed, allowing rapeseed oil to become a major food oil, and rapeseed meal and rapeseeds can now be fed to livestock. Production increased from 5 Mt in 1972 to 72.5 Mt in 2013 (Snowdon, 2006; FAO, 2014). Low-erucic, low-glucosinolate varieties are now the main types grown worldwide, though there are also high-erucic varieties grown for specific industrial purposes (Snowdon, 2006). In Europe, rapeseed oil is the main source of biofuel (FAO, 2014; Snowdon, 2006; Duke, 1983).

Note: the name "canola" was originally a trademark licensed by the Canadian Canola Council and referring to "00" varieties developed in Canada (Casséus, 2009) but is now used as a generic term for 00 varieties in North America, Australia and other countries. In the text below, the name "canola" is used only when the source of the information actually refers to rapeseeds marketed under that name.

Whole rapeseeds

Plants from the Brassicaceae family produce fruit called siliques, commonly called pods. Oilseed rape pods are 6-9 cm long and contain between 15 and 25 seeds. Rapeseeds are small (1-2 mm in diameter), spherical, light brown to black. There are approximately 280,000 to 300,000 seeds per kg. The seeds are released as the pods dry out and shatter (OGTR, 2008). Because the main livestock rapeseed product is the oil by-product (rapeseed meal or rapeseed cake), whole rapeseeds are often called "full-fat rapeseeds" or "full-fat canola" to distinguish them from the oil meal. The "00" rapeseed and canola seeds can be included in ruminant diets, and to a less extent in pig and poultry diets due to the presence of residual glucosinolates.


Oilseed rape is thought to have originated from Europe and is now grown worldwide. It is the 4th largest producer of oil seeds after soybeans, oil palm and cottonseeds (FAO, 2014). In 2013, world rapeseed production was 72.5 Mt: the top 5 producers were Canada (18 Mt), China (14 Mt), India (8 Mt), Germany (5.7 Mt) and France (4.3 Mt), followed by Australia, Poland, Ukraine, the UK and the Czech Republic.

Oilseed rape is mostly cultivated in temperate areas but it is also grown in the tropics at high elevations (between 1500 and 2200 m) (Ecocrop, 2014). In regions of Europe and Asia where winters are mild, oilseed rape is mainly cultivated as a winter crop. In Canada, northern Europe and Australia, spring varieties are more suitable (Snowdon, 2006). Oilseed rape is prone to heat stress in very hot weather. It is often a good alternative oilseed crop to soybeans in regions where the latter crop does not grow well (Blair, 2011). Oilseed rape is a versatile plant that does well under a wide range of soil conditions, provided that they are well-drained and that moisture and fertility levels are adequate (Snowdon, 2006; Duke, 1983). It grows where annual rainfall is between 300 and 2800 mm. It responds positively to N and P fertilizers and requires large amounts of sulphur (Herkes, 2014; Duke, 1983). Optimal growth is obtained in spring-type oilseed rape when the temperature is just over 20°C, and it is best grown between 12°C and 30°C. Winter oilseed rape sown in autumn survives the winter in a leaf rosette form on the soil surface, and resumes growth in the following spring, first developing vertical stems and then lateral branches shortly before blooming. Flowering occurs in spring, and pod development and ripening take place over 6 to 8 weeks (Snowdon, 2006). Oilseed rape is frost resistant: unhardened oilseed rape survives -4°C at all stages of growth while hardened spring types withstand -10°/-20°C and winter types can survive down to -15°C/-20°C for short periods (Ecocrop, 2014). Oilseed rape is sensitive to aluminium and manganese toxicity in acidic soils but it is relatively tolerant of soil salinity (up to 5-6 dS/m) (CCC, 2014).


Rapeseeds can be ground and heat-processed to improve their digestibility and reduce their residual glucosinolate content for cattle, pigs and poultry (Blair, 2011; Blair, 2008).

Forage management 


Oilseed rape plants can either be sown during autumn for winter types or during spring for spring types. Note: oilseed rape is a major crop with a large number of specialised cultivars, so cultivation techniques are beyond the scope of this datasheet.


Rapeseeds can be harvested through direct combining or they can be cut, swathed and then combined. When direct combining is intended, harvest should be done when seeds contain between 15% and 9% moisture and when the straw is yellow in colour. Earlier harvesting can reduce yield as green seeds may remain in the pods and pass through the combine harvester with the chaff. If the seeds are too dry (below 9% moisture), they may shatter before combining (CETIOM, 2014). When swathing is intended (for example in areas where the growing season is short), the crop can be cut and left on the ground for 8 to 10 days so that uniform drying occurs. Once the seeds are dried to about 8-10% moisture the swathed crop can be threshed (CCC, 2014).


The worldwide average seed yield for oilseed rape was 2 t/ha in 2013. However, yields range between very low (0.3 t/ha in Tunisia) and very high values (4.2 t/ha in Belgium) (CETIOM, 2014).


For optimal storage, seeds should be clean, healthy and not broken. They should be below 10% moisture (8% being at lower risk) and allowed to cool before entering storage bins. Ideal temperature for storage is 15°C or below. Under such conditions, rapeseeds have a long shelf-life (over 6 months). Under less optimal conditions, storage should not be longer than 6 months (CCC, 2014).

Environmental impact 

Genetically-modified canola seeds

Many genetically-modified canola cultivars have been developed and are widely used in Canada (95% of the crop) and in the USA (82%) (GMO Compass, 2010). In the European Union, GM rapeseed crops are banned but rapeseeds, rapeseed oil and rapeseed oil meal resulting from the cultivation of certain cultivars (GT73 and T45) can be imported and used as feed and food (EFSA, 2009; European Commission, 2003). Harmonisation of GM rapeseed labelling has been recommended so that livestock farmers can make an informed choice. However, no compulsory labelling is required for livestock products resulting from feeding GM oilseed rape products (European Commission, 2003).

Cover crop, mulch and stubbles

Winter oilseed rape covers the soil for 10-11 months. It has high nutritional demands in autumn and is able to scavenge soil nutrients (especially N), thus reducing N nutrient losses. Plant cover also reduces soil erosion in winter and the taproots alleviate soil compaction (SARE, 2008Snowdon, 2006). Oilseed rape plants are known to reduce root nematodes (SARE, 2008). During winter, crop residues left on the soil after harvest help to trap snow and subsequently reduce snow melt run-off, wind and water erosion. Oilseed rape is increasingly recommended for soil conservation as well as for minimal or no-till practices, provided it is combined with adequate weed control (Snowdon, 2006).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Rapeseeds are a source of protein and lipids. They contain about 21% of protein (17-24% DM). They have a lower protein content than soybeans (40%) and linseeds (24%), are similar to cottonseeds (22%), and are richer in protein than sunflower seeds (17%). They have a high oil content of 46% of the DM (40-50% DM), which is slightly lower than the oil content of sunflower seeds (48%), and much higher than that of linseeds (37%), soybeans (21%), and cottonseeds (20%). Rapeseeds and canola seeds have a relatively low fibre content (crude fibre 10% DM; NDF 21% DM; ADF 15% DM), which is much less than in other oilseeds except soybeans (crude fiber 6% DM). Rapeseed oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (60% oleic, 21% linoleic and 10% linolenic), which makes it valuable for human and animal diets (Blair, 2011). 

Relations between constituents

The following have been calculated from the Feedipedia/AFZ database:

Ether extract (% DM) = 63.7 - 0.82 crude protein (% DM) (n = 1937, R² = 0.27, RSD = 1.6)

NDF (% DM) = 6.0 + 1.52 crude fibre (% DM) (n = 64, R² = 0.30, RSD = 4.7)

ADF (% DM) = 3.4 + 1.18 crude fibre (% DM) (n = 64, R²= 0.35, RSD = 3.2)

Lignin (% DM) = 2.1 + 0.47 crude fibre (% DM) (n = 68, R² = 0.24, RSD = 1.6)

Potential constraints 

Oil rapeseeds used to have a high content of erucic acid and glucosinolates that are of concern for animal and human health, but those problems have been eliminated or largely reduced through traditional genetic selection since the 1970s (Przybylski et al., 2005; Pinochet et al., 2012; Snowdon, 2006).

Erucic acid

Erucic acid (cis 13-docosenoic acid, 22:1n-9) used to be a major component of rapeseed oil (up to 50% in earlier cultivars). Erucic acid causes a bitter taste and has adverse effects on heart health and animal performance that were demonstrated in early studies with rats, ducklings, poultry, and pigs. This concern led to the development of low-erucic cultivars ("0") in the 1970s, and by 2005 most rapeseed oil produced worldwide contained less than 2% of erucic acid (Snowdon, 2006; Przybylski et al., 2005). The content in erucic acid of foods is now regulated: in Canada, canola oil must contain less than 2% erucic acid (CCC, 2014); in the EU the fat content of foodstuffs must contain less than 5% erucic acid (less than 1% for infant formulae) (EFSA, 2016).

However, the scientific consensus on erucic acid has soften since the 1970s. An extensive literature review (EFSA, 2016) found that while a high intake of erucic acid does result in myocardial lipidosis in pigs and rats, this lipidosis regresses after animals return to a low-fat diet without erucic acid. For pigs, a NOAEL (no observed adverse effect level) of 700 mg/kg BW per day was identified. For dairy cows, a reduction in feed intake and milk yield by dairy cows was reported at an intake of 0.4 g erucic acid/kg BW per day from rapeseed meal. In fish, rabbits and horses, no conclusion could be drawn due to the limited studies available. The most severe effects were observed in poultry: high-erucic diets resulted in growth retardation, cardiac lipidosis, and other adverse effects on health and production. A LOAEL (lowest observed adverse effect level) of 0.02 g/kg BW per day was defined, and a health risk exists in poultry when maximum inclusion rates are applied. It is important to note that, in all livestock species, it is difficult to distinguish the adverse effects of erucic acid from those of other dietary factors such as glucosinolates. Still, erucic acid remains a concern, as dietary erucic acid is transferred to products of animal origin and a dose-related increase in erucic acid in food of animal origin has been shown. As of 2019, the question of the toxicity of erucic acid for livestock remains elusive.

Since the late 1990s, high-erucic acid rapeseed (HEAR) cultivars are grown for niche industrial purposes to produce erucamide (an additive in polyethylene and polypropylene manufacture and a surfactant) and behenic acid (Snowdon, 2006; Tonin, 2018).


Glucosinolates are a family of sulphur-rich glucosides that are characteristic of Brassicaceae plants. The hydrolyzed products of glucosinolates (isothiocyanates and other sulphur-containing compounds) give a pungent and bitter taste to the oil that is often enjoyed by humans (mustard) but tends to reduce the palatability of brassica products for livestock, affecting feed intake (Przybylski et al., 2005). Glucosinolates also interfere with iodine metabolism. In monogastrics, they cause physiological disorders in the liver, kidneys, and thyroid glands, and, as a consequence, reduce growth and performance. Mortality can increase, especially in laying hens, due to hemorrhagic liver syndrome (Fenwick, 1982).

Since the 1970s, glucosinolates have been mostly bred out of rapeseed cultivars, though not eliminated. Modern 00 rapeseed/canola cultivars have very low levels of glucosinolates. In Canada, canola oil must contain less than 30 µmoles of glucosinolates per gram of air-dried oil-free meal (CCC, 2014). The glucosinolate content of rapeseeds has been declining steadily, and is now often below 10 µmol/g vs. 120 µmol/g for former non-00 cultivars (Peyronnet et al., 2014; Khajali et al., 2012). Surveys conducted since 2010 reported averages of 3.9 µmol/g (Canadian canola meal), and 10 µmol/g (French rapeseed meal) (Mejicanos et al., 2016). The use of rapeseed meal in pigs and poultry diets can now be increased without affecting feed intake or the physiological functions of livestock (Cetiom, 2001). In poultry the limitation is not due to glucosinolates but to the high fibre content (Cetiom, 2001).


Tannins are phenolic compounds that bind with various compounds, including proteins, making them less available to the animal (Bell, 1993). In rapeseeds, most tannins are contained in the seed coat (Lipsa et al., 2012). With pigs it was found that dark hulled seeds were nearly indigestible whereas yellow hulled seeds were reasonably well digested. This was attributed to a lower tannin and lignin content in the brighter seeds (Bell et al., 1982). Lighter varieties of rapeseeds were reported to contain less tannins ("000" varieties) (Auger et al., 2010). Some breeding programmes aim at reducing the thickness of the seed coat, and thus the level of tannins (Lipsa et al., 2012). Dehulled rapeseed meal and rapeseed meal from light-coloured varieties may thus have a lower tannin content.

Choline and sinapine

Rapeseeds have large amounts of choline and sinapine, both precursors of trimethylamine. In laying hens producing brown-shelled eggs, which are deprived of the trimethylamine-degrading enzyme, feeding rapeseeds results in eggs with a fishy odour and taste. The amount of rapeseeds should thus be limited for this category of layers (Pickard, 2005).


Rapeseeds are sources of protein and energy for ruminants. It can be useful to grind rapeseeds for cattle in order to increase their digestibility. This operation is not necessary for sheep and goats because they naturally grind the seeds with their teeth (Poncet et al., 2003). Though rapeseeds are naturally rich in α-tocopherol that acts as an anti-oxidant, ground full-fat rapeseeds are prone to oxidation. This oxidation results in undesirable odours and flavours if the seeds are stored for too long, and it is thus advised to grind only small amounts of rapeseed at any one time (Blair, 2011).

Digestibility and energy content

Due to their high oil and relatively low fibre contents, rapeseeds are one of the richest plant components in terms of energy. The metabolizable energy value given by the INRA-AFZ Tables is 20.3 MJ/kg DM, which is higher than for other oilseeds (sunflower seeds and linseeds 17.9 MJ/kg, soybeans 16.4 MJ/kg DM) and much higher than the other concentrate feeds (about 12-15 MJ/kg DM) (Sauvant et al., 2004). This high value is similar to those proposed in other feed tables such as the NRC tables (NRC, 2001).

Protein value

As for most untreated oilseeds, the rumen nitrogen degradability of rapeseeds is fairly high. The INRA-AFZ Tables suggested an effective in sacco nitrogen degradability of 79% for rapeseeds, 78% for linseeds, 89% for sunflower seeds and 71% for cottonseeds. Since processing can largely reduce this degradability, values of 52% and 40% were proposed for extruded and rumen-protected rapeseed (Sauvant et al., 2004). Protein and energy utilization of rapeseed in the rumen can be changed by various physical and thermal processings (micronization, grinding, crushing and extrusion). In particular, heat processing of rapeseeds may increase milk ouput in dairy cattle (Kim et al., 2001). It has been shown that heating canola seeds reduced their in sacco nitrogen degradability (Mesgaranm et al., 2005). Micronization, which reduced rumen degradability of protein and disappearance of total and essential amino acids from canola seeds, may be efficient for improving amino acid utilization in ruminants. Grinding increased the proportion of protein digested in the intestine (Wang et al., 1997; Wang et al., 1999). The cooking-extrusion of 60:40 and 80:20 blends of peas and rapeseeds increased their metabolisable protein content and thus the delivery of amino acids to the intestine, though it decreased the proportion of lysine and methionine (in the protein) available in the intestine. Extrusion also increased the proportion of C18:1, C18:2 and C18:3 in the milk fat. These results emphasize the interest in incorporating these feeds, often at high levels, in the diets of dairy ruminants (Chapoutot et al., 1997). Treatment with 3% glucose decreased the nitrogen degradability of canola meal but not that of canola seed (Koksal et al., 2011).

In Australia, with grazing steers fed rapeseeds, a comparison of processing methods (scarification, grinding, rolling, roasting and steaming) concluded that grinding produced the most rumen degraded N/kg of organic matter digested in the rumen. Grinding was thus considered as the most efficient method for optimizing the use of rapeseeds as a supplement for grazing steers (Gunter et al., 2014). In Colombia, condensed tannins used to treat rapeseeds decreased the rumen degradability of DM and N, while autoclaving, or tannins combined with autoclaving increased the degradability of those fractions (Santos et al., 2014).

Influence of rapeseed on methane production

Rapeseed is an appropriate source of lipids for reducing enteric CH4 production. In growing sheep, rapeseed reduced methane production by 19%, less than sunflower seeds (27%) but more than linseeds (10%) (Machmuller et al., 2000). Crushed sunflower seeds, linseeds, and canola seeds fed to lactating dairy cows all decreased methane production (g/d) by an average of 13% compared with a commercial source of calcium salts. Inclusion of crushed canola seeds offered a means of mitigating methane production without negatively affecting diet digestibility, and hence, milk production (Beauchemin et al., 2009). A comparison of different rapeseed products (rapeseed meal, rapeseed cake, cracked rapeseeds and rapeseed oil) showed that the physical form of rapeseed fat did not influence its CH4-reducing effect and this could be obtained without affecting neutral detergent fiber digestion or milk production. It was concluded that crushed rapeseed could be used to reduce methane emissions in ruminants (Brask et al., 2013).

Dairy cattle

Rapeseeds can be used in dairy cattle feeding to increase the energy supply and to alter the milk fatty acid composition. The effect of rapeseeds on the milk fatty acids profile can be observed in the gut: rapeseeds altered rumen biohydrogenation of fatty acids, which was reflected in simultaneous changes in the duodenal flow of fatty acids and in the milk fatty acid profile (Mutsvangwa et al., 2012). Compared with an unsupplemented ration, unprotected canola seeds increased the C18:0 concentration in the milk while 4.8% formaldehyde-protected seeds increased the C18:2 and C18:3 contents, and reduced the C18:0 to C18:1c9 ratio (Delbecchi et al., 2001).

Feeding extruded canola seeds to low-producing cows had a positive effect on milk production and significant effects on milk composition (Kim et al., 2011). Feeding canola seeds to lactating dairy cows resulted in milk fat with higher proportions of desirable fatty acids without affecting digestion, milk yield or composition of milk (Chichlowski et al., 2005). Supplementing the diet with either ground canola seeds, extruded soybeans or whole cottonseeds increased the desirable poly- and mono- unsaturated fatty acids, and decreased the medium chain fatty acid and saturated fatty acid content of milk fat without negative effects on rumen fermentation and lactation yield (Chen et al., 2008). Feeding extruded canola seeds increased milk fat concentration of trans-11 18:1 (Neves et al., 2009). However, rapeseed does not always affect milk fatty acids, as shown in a trial where feeding dairy cows with a concentrate containing 1.2 kg/d of rapeseeds failed to affect the milk fatty profile for cis-9, trans-11, trans-10, cis-12 and cis-10 isomers of conjugated linoleic acid (Avilez Ruiz et al., 2013). Feeding high levels of rapeseeds (up to 1.15 kg oil/d) could be used as a nutritional strategy to lower the saturated fatty acids of milk without inducing adverse effects on DM intake and milk yield and composition (Kliem et al., 2011). In another trial, canola and sunflower seeds increased conjugated linoleic acid content in the milk fat of lactating cows without negatively affecting milk yield and milk fat concentration (Schroeder et al., 2013).

Growing cattle

There are few experiments reported in the literature on the effect of rapeseed on growing cattle. In Holstein steers, canola seed processing (ground vs. whole) enhanced its in situ degradation but had almost no effect on rumen or total tract digestibility of low-quality forage-based diets (Leupp et al., 2006).


There are few reports of feeding trials on sheep offered rapeseeds. In lactating ewes, supplementation with canola seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds had no effect on DM intake or nutrient utilization (Zhang et al., 2007). In growing lambs, partial replacement of barley starch with beet pulp, a soluble fibre, and canola seeds had positive effects on performance, nutrient digestibility and rumen pH (Asadollahi et al., 2014).


The use of rapeseeds in pig diets was avoided in the past due to the sensitivity of pigs to glucosinolates, since the tolerable level of glucosinolates in the total diet is 2.4-2.5 µmol/g (Bell, 1993; Schöne et al., 1997a; Schöne et al., 1997b). Low erucic, low glucosinolates rapeseeds are now a valuable source of both protein and energy provided that the seeds are slightly broken to increase oil digestibility. Heating is also helpful to destroy the residual glucosinolates that can still be found in rapeseeds (Blair, 2007).

Effect of processing

Many processes have been tested in order to improve the nutritional value of rapeseeds for pigs. Grinding rapeseeds has a significant effect on their digestibility. It was shown that thorough grinding vs. coarse grinding increased rapeseed digestibility (+13% OM digestibility and +3 MJ/kg ME). Among heat treatments, the most effective was micronization at 105°C (Danicke et al., 1998). This result was confirmed in growing and finishing pigs fed on micronized rapeseeds as a replacement to rapeseed oil to provide energy. Pigs fed on micronized rapeseeds had a higher energy digestibility than pigs fed on raw rapeseeds. Digestible energy in micronized rapeseeds had been reported to be 16.7 MJ/kg in an earlier experiment (Lawrence, 1978). Their growth rate was better than those of pigs fed on raw rapeseeds and were similar to those fed on rapeseed oil. Pigs fed on micronized rapeseeds had a better feed conversion efficiency than pigs fed on the control diet (barley-rapeseed meal) (Thacker, 1998).

The energy of ground rapeseed, included at 20% of the diet of finishing pigs (60 kg), was less digestible than that of flaked rapeseeds (9.5 MJ/kg vs. 22.1 MJ/kg). This difference was, however, removed by pelleting, since pelleted feed containing either ground rapeseed or flaked rapeseed had almost the same digestible energy (23.5 vs. 23.7 MJ/kg) (Skiba et al., 2002).

Growing pigs

In the 1990s, it was reported that the inclusion of canola seeds in pig diets was possible at up to 20% (DM basis) without hampering growth performance of growing and finishing pigs. However, pigs had softer backfat in the carcass when the dietary level of rapeseed was over 10% (Aherne et al., 1990; Hoppenbrock, 1985). These results were confirmed by an Australian experiment that showed that at over 8% rapeseed in the diet the iodine number was significantly increased. This number indicated that unsaturated fatty acids increased at the expense of saturated fatty acids in the backfat. Higher inclusion rates of rapeseeds (15% or 25%, DM basis) in diets for growing and finishing pigs had significant effects on pig meat quality: the melting point of subcutaneous fat was lowered; the n-6 fatty acid:n-3 fatty acid ratio in Longissimus dorsi was reduced; as were subcutaneous adipose tissue lipids. The meat was prone to iron-induced oxidation. These problems could be alleviated by α-tocopherol supplementation (Onibi et al., 1998). For those reasons, it is now recommended to include rapeseeds at only up to 10% of the diets for growing and finishing pigs (Brand et al., 1999).


Raw rapeseeds could be fed at 10% of the diet to gestating and lactating sows a few days before farrowing and up to 21 days after without hampering reproductive performance or feed intake during lactation. However, voluntary feed intake was reduced when the inclusion level reached 15%, which resulted in greater weight loss in the sows, but also in heavier weaning piglets because the sow’s milk fat content was increased (Spratt et al., 1985). In a long term study, performance of sows fed on isoproteic, isoenergetic diets consisting in maize-soybean meal, maize-rapeseeds or maize-canola meal were evaluated. It was shown that the rapeseed diet reduced weight gain during gestation, but also weight loss during lactation. The rapeseed diet also increased the number of piglets born alive, while the litter birth weight and the interval of return to oestrus remained unchanged (Smiricky-Tjardes et al., 2003). Micronization of intact canola seeds increased the growth rate and feed intake of gilts fed diets containing canola seed. The improvement in growth rate was attributed to a reduction in myrosinase activity, reducing the opportunity for hydrolysis of glucosinolates in the gut (Thacker, 1998).


Several studies have shown that rapeseeds can be included in layer, broiler and turkey diets (Salmon et al., 1988Nwokolo et al., 1989aNwokolo et al., 1989b). The high oil content and the presence of antinutritional factors limit the incorporation of rapeseeds to about 10% of the diet of growing birds. It is suggested that the rapeseeds undergo heat treatment, either before or during feed manufacture, or that the diet is supplemented with an appropriate enzyme mixture (Blair, 2008). Broilers were successfully grown on diets containing up to 12% canola seeds as a replacement for soybean meal (Talebali et al., 2005). In Saudi Arabia, it was reported that a 5-10% inclusion of whole rapeseeds in the diet of Leghorn layers did not affect hen-day egg production, total egg mass, feed conversion efficiency or egg weight (Huthail et al., 2004).

The nutritional value of rapeseeds and canola seeds for poultry mainly depends on their oil content. The digestibility of rapeseed oil and the subsequent metabolizable energy of rapeseeds are highly variable and depend to a large extent on the mechanical processes and treatments (grinding, granulation, extrusion, micronization) undergone by the seeds (Leclercq et al., 1989). Treatments are done to break the cell walls and make lipids more available to the digestive enzymes to increase their digestibility (Rutkowski et al., 2012). Due to their high lipid content, seeds are often treated (for example extruded) in association with another raw material (for example peas or a cereal) to absorb the released lipids (Golian et al., 2007). It does not appear that protein digestibility is reduced or improved by the usual technological treatments. The negative effect of glucosinolates can be more important in the seed than in the meal because the myrosinase is not inactivated in the raw seed. High levels of inclusion of rapeseeds thus resulted in lower performance unless the diets were steam-pelleted (Salmon et al., 1988Nwokolo et al., 1989aNwokolo et al., 1989b).

Effect of enzyme supplementation

The addition of enzymes can improve the digestibility of rapeseeds (Jozefiak et al., 2010; Meng et al., 2006). Ground rapeseeds supplemented with enzymes had a TMEn content of 20.0 MJ/kg vs. 15.2 MJ/kg for non-supplemented ground rapeseeds. Digestibility of fat (80% vs. 64%) and non-starch polysaccharides (20% vs. 4%) were also increased by enzyme supplementation. Enzyme supplementation also resulted in an improvement in the feed:gain ratio, AMEn content, total tract DM digestibility and ileal fat digestibility (Meng et al., 2006).

Effect of lipids on animal product quality

Because rapeseeds are rich in n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, feeding layers on increasing levels of rapeseeds increased linearly linoleic acid, linolenic acid and docosahexaenoic acid content of the yolk (Nwokolo et al., 1989b). In broilers, the same researchers showed that the lipids in skeletal muscle, skin and sub-dermal fat and abdominal fat of birds fed diets containing rapeseeds had the highest contents of linoleic and linolenic acids (Nguyen et al., 2003; Krasicka et al., 2000; Nwokolo et al., 1989b).


Full-fat rapeseeds are sometimes included in commercial or experimental rabbit's feeds, e.g. in Belgium, in order to increase the lipid content of the diet (Xiccato et al., 1999). The inclusion level is generally 2 or 3% and rabbit performances are similar to those obtained with oil addition (Verdelhan et al., 2005; Bouchier et al., 2016).

For experimental studies with growing rabbits, higher incorporation levels were used e.g. 10% of rape seed, without significant modification of performance. However, the energetic valorisation of rape lipids seems superior in association with wheat grains, than in association with maize or barley grains (Seroux et al., 1986). Digestibility of normal and transgenic 00 rape seeds was studied at 30% dietary level in substitution to the basal diet (Maertens et al., 1996). The energy digestibility of the non-transgenic rape seeds tended (P < 0.08) to be higher than the transgenic one: 92.9% vs. 90.8%. The DE content of the 2 rapeseeds were 28.61 for the control and 22.26 MJ/kg DM for the transgenic rapeseed. This difference is explained mainly by the difference in lipid contents, which were respectively 44.3% and 41.4% DM (Maertens et al., 1996). Protein digestibilities were 78.7 and 76.3%, values similar to those obtained with rapeseed meal.

Full-fat rapeseed can thus be used normally in rabbit feeding. The efficiency is similar to the incorporation of oil in the diet, for the pellets durability which decreases with increasing inclusion level, or for the influence on lipid composition of rabbit meat (Maertens, 1998).


Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

A coextruded mixture of peas and rapeseeds fed to rainbow trout had higher DM, protein and energy digestibilities (respectively 90%, 95% and 87%) than most other plant products used as potential fish meal replacers (Gomes et al., 1995).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 92.3 1.1 87.3 94.9 3844  
Crude protein % DM 20.9 1.2 17.5 24.6 3630  
Crude fibre % DM 10.1 2.2 5.8 15.7 2035  
NDF % DM 20.4 4.6 13.2 30.5 78  
ADF % DM 14.4 3.2 9.1 21.4 76  
Lignin % DM 6.3 1.3 4.5 10.2 78  
Ether extract % DM 46.0 2.1 39.8 51.0 1598  
Ash % DM 4.3 0.2 3.7 5.0 1683  
Starch (polarimetry) % DM 3.7 0.9 2.7 5.7 9  
Total sugars % DM 5.5 0.7 4.8 7.1 10  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 28.8 0.7 27.7 30.6 14 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 4.9 0.7 3.7 6.5 305  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 7.3 0.6 5.6 8.4 315  
Potassium g/kg DM 8.3 0.4 7.4 9.3 18  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.4 50  
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.6 0.3 2.0 3.1 11  
Manganese mg/kg DM 42       1  
Zinc mg/kg DM 38       1  
Copper mg/kg DM 3       1  
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Alanine % protein 4.7 0.8 4.2 6.2 6  
Arginine % protein 6.2 0.6 5.6 7.3 7  
Aspartic acid % protein 7.6 0.7 6.8 8.9 7  
Cystine % protein 2.5 0.2 2.3 2.8 19  
Glutamic acid % protein 18.0 1.7 16.2 21.0 6  
Glycine % protein 5.5 0.9 4.4 6.9 7  
Histidine % protein 2.9 0.3 2.6 3.5 7  
Isoleucine % protein 4.3 0.7 3.9 5.6 7  
Leucine % protein 7.3 1.1 6.3 9.5 7  
Lysine % protein 6.3 0.3 5.8 6.8 22  
Methionine % protein 2.0 0.1 1.8 2.1 20  
Phenylalanine % protein 4.3 0.7 3.6 5.8 7  
Proline % protein 5.9 0.2 5.7 6.1 3  
Serine % protein 4.4 0.5 3.9 5.5 7  
Threonine % protein 4.8 0.8 4.2 6.6 7  
Tryptophan % protein 1.3       1  
Tyrosine % protein 3.1 0.3 2.9 3.5 5  
Valine % protein 5.5 0.7 4.9 7.0 7  
Fatty acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Stearic acid C18:0 % fatty acids 1.7 0.5 1.3 3.3 13  
Oleic acid C18:1 % fatty acids 59.9 2.1 53.5 61.7 13  
Linoleic acid C18:2 % fatty acids 20.6 0.6 19.4 21.8 27  
Linolenic acid C18:3 % fatty acids 10.1 0.8 8.9 11.6 13  
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Tannins (eq. tannic acid) g/kg DM 7.2   0.0 14.4 2  
Tannins, condensed (eq. catechin) g/kg DM 1.8       1  
Glucosinolates µmol/g DM 14.48 4.28 5.88 31.21 1419  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 82.4         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 86.9         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 25.0         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 20.3         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 74.6         *
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 81.5 8.3 63.7 81.5 4 *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 23.5 2.1 18.4 23.5 4 *
MEn growing pig MJ/kg DM 22.8         *
NE growing pig MJ/kg DM 17.8         *
Nitrogen digestibility, growing pig % 73.3 6.4 66.5 79.1 3  
Poultry nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
AMEn cockerel MJ/kg DM 16.8   15.0 18.5 2  
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 80.1   80.0 81.4 2 *
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 23.0   22.5 23.6 2  
MEn rabbit MJ/kg DM 22.1         *
Nitrogen digestibility, rabbit % 81.9   78.7 85.0 2  

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


AFZ, 2011; Alcalde et al., 2011; Barbour et al., 1991; CIRAD, 1991; CIRAD, 2008; Fan et al., 1995; Flachowsky et al., 1997; Le Guen et al., 1999; Lee et al., 1995; Maertens et al., 1996; Maertens et al., 2001; Muztar et al., 1978; Shen YingRan et al., 2004; Skiba et al., 1999; Van Cauwenberghe et al., 1996; Wettstein et al., 2000

Last updated on 22/12/2014 03:32:45

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Sauvant D., Lessire M., Lebas F., 2019. Rapeseeds. Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/15617 Last updated on August 20, 2019, 0:56

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)