Flax seed meal (FSM) is rich in various nutrients, especially CP and energy, and can be used as animal protein feed. In animal husbandry production, it is a long-term goal to replace soybean meal (SBM) in animal feed with other plant protein feed. However, studies on the effects of replacing SBM with FSM in fattening sheep are limited. The aim of this experiment was to study the effects of replacing a portion of SBM with FSM on nutrient digestibility, rumen microbial protein synthesis and growth performance in sheep. Thirty-six Dorper × Small Thin-Tailed crossbred rams (BW = 40.4 ± 1.73 kg, mean ± SD) were randomly assigned into four groups. The dietary treatments (forage/concentrate, 45 : 55) were isocaloric according to the nutrient requirements of rams. Soybean meal was replaced with FSM at different levels (DM basis): (1) 18% SBM (18SBM), (2) 12% SBM and 6% FSM (6FSM), (3) 6% SBM and 12% FSM (12FSM) and (4) 18% FSM (18FSM). The rams were fed in individual pens for 60 days, with the first 10 days for adaptation to diets, and then the digestibility of nutrients was determined. There was no significant difference in DM intake, but quadratic (P < 0.001) effects on the average daily gain and feed efficiency were detected, with the highest values in the 6FSM and 12FSM groups. For DM and NDF digestibility, quadratic effects were observed with the higher values in the 6FSM and 12FSM groups, but the digestibility of CP linearly decreased with the increase in FSM in the diet (P = 0.043). There was a quadratic (P < 0.001) effect of FSM inclusion rate on the estimated microbial CP yield. However, the values of intestinally absorbable dietary protein decreased linearly (P < 0.001). For the supply of metabolisable protein, both the linear (P = 0.001) and quadratic (P = 0.044) effects were observed with the lowest value in the 18FSM group. Overall, the results indicated that SBM can be effectively replaced by FSM in the diets of fattening sheep and the optimal proportion was 12.0% under the conditions of this experiment.