How Much Should I Feed?
Typical rations include up to 15% cottonseed on a dry matter basis. Feeding 5 to 8 lbs of whole cottonseed per cow per day is considered economical, effective and safe.
If greater amounts are fed, careful calculations of gossypol intakes based on the whole seed analysis should be done, especially if more than the recommended amount is fed for extended periods.
Because each dairy is unique, have your forages tested and work with your nutritionist to develop a balanced ration for your herd. These sample rations from key regions will help get you started.
What is Gossypol?
Gossypol is a natural phenol derived from the cotton plant. Its level must be managed to avoid toxicity, or gossypol poisoning.
Research conducted at Auburn University suggests that 24 grams of free gossypol is the approximate upper limit for the lactating cow, allowing up to 10 lbs of whole cottonseed per cow per day if the free gossypol is 0.50% or less in the whole seed (22.7 grams). A gossypol analysis is recommended to determine the exact amount of free gossypol if feeding more than 8 lbs per cow per day.
Analyses are usually expressed as a percentage of the kernel (meal plus oil). To convert the percentage of gossypol in the kernel to the percentage present in the whole seed, multiply by .68. For example, if a kernel contains 0.92% gossypol, the equivalent amount in the whole seed would be 0.63%.
If cottonseed meal and/or cottonseed hulls also are being fed, their contribution to the total free gossypol intake also needs to be included, though they will likely have much less free gossypol than whole cottonseed.