A cattle producer in New Mexico has been feeding whole cottonseed for many years, and he believes other farmers could benefit from the supplement.
Alisa Ogden lives on a third-generation family farm in Loving, New Mexico, with a diversified crop base that includes a cow-calf operation in addition to growing cotton. According to him, cottonseed is an effective feed additive. After going through the cleaning process, the fuzzy cotton seed is presented to the producers.
According to Cotton Incorporated, whole cottonseed contains 23% protein, 20% energy and 24% crude fiber on a dry matter basis. The kernel of the seed is a source of energy and protein. Its fiber is found in linters, which are short, white, fluffy threads that remain in each seed after ginning. All cottonseed should not be fed to young rutting calves.
Ogden mixes fuzzy cottonseed with other forages for its weaner calves and is popular with beef cattle.
According to him, cottonseed will be the first feed to come out of the containers. Cottonseed is small enough that it needs to be kept in a fork and cannot be fed on the ground or in pasture.
Ogden said weight gain increased by 50 to 100 pounds per head when fed fuzzy cottonseed daily. It is usually fed on traditional forages including alfalfa, sudan, wheat, barley and triticale. Alfalfa protein is about 17% to 18% in the Loving region.
Fuzzy cottonseed is often part of the regimen for a three- to four-month period, where higher weight gain occurs.
His operation tries to wean calves between about 500 and 600 pounds and generally aims to ship when they reach 800 to 900 pounds. He begins the entire cotton supplement process immediately after weaning, regardless of weight.
Ogden credits his father with the invention as he started feeding cottonseed nearly 50 years ago. When the family began owning beef cattle, her father saw an opportunity when he grew cotton next to a gin and used cottonseed as a feed supplement.
According to him, not everyone is interested in cattle and his family has circumstances. Other growers in the region also use cottonseed meal, depending on their operation pattern and available equipment.
“Because we have both a farm and a farm, we have facilities that are tractors and mills for feed available on the farm,” Ogden said. “Also, we grow our own feed and rarely have to buy it from outside.”
Its feed market is competitive. Dairy farms also buy whole cotton seeds in addition to their rations.
The gin his operation uses to supply its cotton seed is in Artesia, about 60 miles north of Loving. Ogden said high fuel and transportation are important considerations, but he continues to believe in feed.
Growing interest in cotton production in Oklahoma and Kansas could create more opportunities for farmers in those regions, and Ogden wants to dispel misconceptions about the fuzzy cotton seed.
“One of the misconceptions is that if you feed fuzzy cottonseed to bulls or cows, there are a lot of breeders that affect their performance,” he said. “It’s the amount of food that will affect productivity.”
Cotton Incorporated is funding research to study the use of fuzzy cottonseed, and the formula is what Ogden uses in his operation.
“You don’t want to feed an animal more than 1 to 2 pounds of fuzzy cottonseed per day,” he said, adding that they mix it with other traditional feeds and distribute it in the beds. “They get enough oil in this seed to help them use the other feed they eat. You have to feed him in a bed. You can’t just make a ‘free choice’ on the ground.”
One option for some producers — depending on their setup — is to put feed bins in the pasture, he said.
Ogden said he saw results in his operation.
“You can hear those calves going through that feed and you can hear them crunching,” Ogden said. “They’re really making good use of it.”
Fuzzy cottonseed, he said, is a proven supplement for yearlings and cattle in feedlots. Ogden also used cottonseed as a supplement to treat sick animals. “I don’t know why, but it seems to help them heal faster. I believe that cottonseed oil can play a role as an energy source.”
Additional information was obtained from land-grant universities, including Oklahoma State University, Texas Tech University, and the University of Arkansas.
Cotton Incorporated noted that whole cottonseed can be used to supplement low-quality grass hay for pregnant and lactating cows, providing energy and protein as a single feed ingredient.
The oil content of whole cottonseed helps improve body condition, which is essential for successful breeding. Research from Oklahoma State and Arkansas found that cotton by-products can be used effectively as a source of fiber, fat and protein in feed rations without adversely affecting yield or carcass traits. Another study conducted by OSU and Texas Tech showed that whole cottonseed or its derivatives can replace forages used in finishing diets of beef cattle with no negative effects on animal performance or carcass traits.
He encourages beef producers to contact universities in their states to learn more about how cottonseed can work in cattle diets. They can then take the information to a nutritionist to see if it is relevant to their operation and how to fit it into their diet.