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Smaller Crop Affects Dairy Seed Supply


A looming global cotton glut and softening demand for textiles have all but stitched up a tighter supply of cottonseed available for dairy cows in 2009.

“Sub-40 cent cotton does not bode well for 2009 cotton acreage, nor is it good news for dairy producers who feed whole fuzzy cottonseed to their high-producing dairy cows,” says Tom Wedegaertner, director of cottonseed research and marketing programs for Cotton Incorporated.

Wedegaertner estimates only about four million dairy cows will have access to whole cottonseed in 2009.

“After the crush, we will have two million tons of cottonseed available for feeding,” he says. “The supply is half what we had two years ago, and it’s not going to get any bigger next year.”

USDA Forecasts Smaller Crop

A recent World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate from USDA forecast upland cotton production to reach 13.1 million bales, 29 percent below 2007. Producers in Texas, the top cotton-producing state, cited inclement weather, including July’s Category 2 Hurricane Dolly, for lower production and yields.

Total forecast cottonseed production for 2008-09 is now 4.599 million tons, compared to October’s estimate of 4.666 million tons.

Cotton Incorporated economists expect 1.1 million fewer acres of upland cotton to be planted in 2009.

Cottonseed is a premium, energy-dense feedstuff known for its production and butterfat-boosting effect. Cottonseed grew in popularity among large Western dairies in the 1980s and became widely accessible in the mid 2000s thanks to back-to-back bumper cotton crops.

“We are now looking at a situation where dairy producers need to decide if and how much to continue feeding cottonseed,” Wedegaertner says. “Right now, cottonseed is quite reasonably priced. Producers who are logistically situated to take advantage of cottonseed should seriously consider taking delivery if they can.”

Dairy producers should consult with their nutritionist and determine a feeding strategy that works for them, he says. Feeding high producers two to three pounds per cow per day is a common strategy recommended by top nutritionists in lean times.

Numerous Benefits Of Cotton

Buying blue jeans and tee-shirts wouldn’t be a bad strategy either, Wedegaertner quips.

“The more demand we create for cotton textiles, the more cotton acres we’ll secure, and the more cottonseed there will be available to dairy producers,” he says. “This holiday season, ask for cotton!”

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 information on cottonseed, including reports on market conditions, feeding information and a list of suppliers, visit www.cottoninc.com.

The National Cottonseed Products Association and Cotton Incorporated contributed information for this article.

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