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Frequently Asked Questions About Whole Cottonseed For Dairy and Beef Producers

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Whole cottonseed is gaining popularity as a feed ingredient among dairy and beef producers, but you still may have questions about its benefits and the practicalities of introducing it into your ration. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about this ingredient with links to learn more.

What is whole cottonseed?

Whole cottonseed is a by-product of cotton production. Cotton gins remove the cotton lint for use in textiles and other products, leaving behind a nutritious seed that can be that makes an excellent feed ingredient for cattle, particularly lactating cows, or can be pressed for cottonseed oil for use in cooking and cosmetics. Cottonseed offers a unique composition of protein, available fat and effective fiber,making it a sought-after feed ingredient for dairies, ranches and feedlots.

What are some of the practical benefits of feeding whole cottonseed?

As a by-product of the cotton ginning process, whole cottonseed is widely available and if purchased at the right time, competitively priced. It can be used as an excellent high-fiber forage extender, particularly in situations where forage quality is of concern.2 It also can be used to supplement poor quality grass hay for pregnant and lactating cows.3

What are the nutritional benefits of feeding whole cottonseed to dairy cows?

The triple nutrient punch of fat, fiber, and protein1 supports a more profitable milk composition from dairy cows. Many studies have demonstrated that whole cottonseed has the potential to increase butterfat content in milk produced by lactating cows.4 One example is a University of California, Davis study that showed that compared four different diets: 0, 10, 15 and 20% whole cottonseed. After a 21-day trial of the feeding program, the results revealed an increase in milk fat content with the inclusion of whole cottonseed in the diet.5 For more details on what the research says about feeding cottonseed, read this article.

What are the nutritional benefits of feeding whole cottonseed to beef cattle?

Whole cottonseed provides an effective source of fiber, fat and protein in feedlot rations without any adverse effects on performance or carcass characteristics.2 Research has also shown that the fat in whole cottonseed improves body condition, leading to better reproductive performance among beef cattle.6 One study from the University of Arkansas and Oklahoma State University concluded that feeding beef cattle whole cottonseed and cotton gin trash resulted in a higher dry matter intake, average daily gain, final body weights and fat thickness compared with cattle in the control group.2 For a closer look at the benefits of feeding whole cottonseed to beef cattle, check out this page.

What should I know about gossypol toxicity?

Gossypol is a naturally occurring toxin found in the cotton plant; ruminant animals like cattle can detoxify gossypol via microorganisms in the rumen that bind to the toxin so it cannot be absorbed.8 Gossypol toxicity is a rare complication that can occur when whole cottonseed is fed above the recommended rate of 0.5% of bodyweight for mature cows or 0.33% for weaned calves per day.7 When rations are well-managed, gossypol toxicity shouldn’t cause any issues for cattle with well-developed rumens.8 For an in-depth look at gossypol toxicity and how to properly feed whole cottonseed, read this article.

What’s the best way to store whole cottonseed?

Cottonseed sometimes presents some storage and handling challenges because it doesn’t “flow” like grains do. One way to solve this problem is to use a walking floor and dump truck for transportation. Producers can also purchase coated and pelleted cottonseed products for easier handling. It’s important to have a designated storage space—either a commodity shed or a cleared-out machine shed—to store the product to reduce spoilage.

How can I buy whole cottonseed?

The key to buying whole cottonseed is forging a relationship with a supplier in your area. Producers and suppliers should have an open line of communication about diet goals for their herd and target prices for whole cottonseed. Read more tips on developing a positive relationship with suppliers here. Producers can search the Cottonseed Marketplace to find a supplier in their area. This marketplace covers cottonseed suppliers for the entire United States.

If you’re a producer looking to incorporate whole cottonseed into your herd’s diet, work with a nutritionist to determine the best approach and search the Cottonseed Marketplace to connect with a supplier who services your area.

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