Cottonseed offers flexibility for dairy rations, while boosting milk or milk fat production


CARY, N.C. - The destructive one-two punch of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma failed to spoil the bumper 2017 cotton crop, meaning dairy farmers will still have access to an ample supply of cottonseed. Roughly 4 million tons of the 6.7 million tons of cottonseed produced this year will be available for feeding dairy cows, compared to 3.3 million last year.

The November 9 U.S. Department of Agriculture’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates reports cotton production at 21.4 million bales with gains noted in the Southwest and other regions.

“Despite significant hurricane impacts, the size of the South Texas crop combined with improved yield potential in other Texas cotton-growing areas will create ample supplies of cottonseed this year,” said Shawn Wade of Plains Cotton Growers. The Texas High Plains, which produces about 30 percent of the nation’s cotton crop, enjoyed favorable growing conditions this year.

According to Adam Lock, associate professor, Michigan State University animal science department, cottonseed is a unique energy source for high-producing dairy cows.

Whole cottonseed provides a higher level of unsaturated fat than many other feed ingredients,” he says. “Along with energy, cottonseed provides fiber and protein.”

The fat in whole cottonseed is released slowly in the rumen, which usually has a positive effect on butterfat, says Tom Wedegaertner, director of cottonseed research and marketing, Cotton Incorporated. “Typical rations include up to 15 percent cottonseed on a dry matter basis. Feeding 5 to 8 pounds per day is considered economical and effective.”
Patrick Hoffman, extension dairy specialist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, points out that, in research trials, feeding whole cottonseed improved milk production in early lactation, while feeding it to replace grain in mid to late lactation significantly improved butterfat test.

“Cottonseed also provides flexibility,” he says. “It can replace forage, grain or protein.”
With favorable cottonseed prices, Wedegaertner urges dairy producers to consider locking in their cottonseed needs. He suggests producers get in touch with their cottonseed merchant or feed dealer to check prices, or submit a request for cottonseed quotes through Cotton Incorporated’s Cottonseed Marketplace at

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