CARY, N.C. — King Cotton may have lost its crown in acreage, but cottonseed continues to reign as a primary feed ingredient for high-producing dairy cows. The problem this year will be whether or not enough supply will keep prices in check.
According to the USDA’s May 9 prospective plantings report for 2008-2009, cotton acreage is expected to shrink by 1.44 million acres, down to 9.39 million acres. Soybean acres are expected to increase by 11.2 million acres and wheat by 3.4 million acres.
“The increase of soybean acres alone will eclipse that of the entire 2007 cotton crop,” said Tom Wedegaertner, director, cottonseed research and marketing, Cotton Incorporated. “With cotton production projected at 14.5 million bales, 25 percent below last year, cottonseed availability will follow suit,” he adds.
Last year, cottonseed prices broke $300/ton. “This year,” Wedegaertner said, “we’re looking at closer to $400/ton. It’s a whole new ball game.”
After the crush, about 2 million tons of cottonseed will be available for feeding, Wedegaertner explains. “That’s half of what we had two years ago, and enough to feed about 4 million dairy cows.”
Rick Titel, a ration analyst for Agri-Nutrition Consulting in Wisconsin, says that before the price of cottonseed started to rise, he was recommending up to 5-6 pounds of whole fuzzy cottonseed per head per day.
Producers who booked cottonseed last fall are in the best situation, he said.
“Our strategy is to hold in the cottonseed as long as we can with the booked prices. If producers are buying as they go, we recommend keeping it in at the 2-pounds-per-head-per-day level for the high producers.”
Titel says producers should carefully weigh the pros and cons when replacing an ingredient. “You cannot wholly replace the oil in cottonseed with distillers’ grains, but you can replace a part of it,” he said.
“When you have a high-production herd, you could risk losing production by taking out too many things.”
Cottonseed is a byproduct of the cotton ginning process, and an excellent source of fiber, protein and energy. Typical rations include up to 15 percent cottonseed on a dry matter basis.
For more information on cottonseed, including reports on market conditions, feeding information and a list of suppliers, visit www.cottoninc.com.