With the whole cottonseed dry spell expected to intensify in 2013, experts are urging dairy producers to consider locking in up to a year’s worth of the feedstuff. Cotton farmers planted 14 percent fewer cotton acres in 2012, explains Tom Wedegaertner, director of agricultural research for Cotton Incorporated. “While a more ‘normal’ summer could produce more harvestable acres of cotton, and more cottonseed, we anticipate the amount of whole cottonseed available for dairies will remain flat compared to 2011.”

If USDA’s June 29 forecast of 17 million bales holds true, the crop could produce 5.7 million tons of cottonseed, of which 3 million tons would be available for feeding.

A “fair amount of variability exists around the USDA forecast,” cautions John Robinson, a professor and Extension cotton marketing economist at Texas A&M University.

“The weather is definitely looking better than last year, but 2011 was historically dry and absolutely terrible,” he says. “‘Hot and dry’ would describe a neutral condition in Texas, but portions of the state remain in severe or extreme drought. We need to be ready for a slightly smaller crop than what USDA has predicted.”

His advice to dairy producers: keep an eye on the crop – especially data from the August and September USDA reports. And consider that 2013 is poised to offer little reprieve.


“I’m fully anticipating a decline in cotton acres next year given the futures market prices for wheat, soybeans and corn. Land is being booked up right now to go to those competing crops. They just pencil out better in many areas of the Cotton Belt.

“In Texas, however, we don’t have good alternatives,” he notes. “Even with low cotton lint prices, cotton wins out over sorghum and possibly even dryland wheat. Corn is a risky proposition.”

Wedegaertner echoes Robinson’s advice to keep a watchful eye on the markets and consider that prices of the 2012 cottonseed crop most likely will be at their “lowest levels in recent memory,” especially when compared to other commodities.

“There is no other single ingredient that can mimic cottonseed’s ‘triple-nutrient’ combination of high protein, energy and fiber, so it’s worth taking a look at price if you haven’t in a while,” Wedegaertner says.

Many producers who’ve taken cottonseed out of the ration in recent years may not even realize cottonseed prices have come down, he explains. “It’s always a good idea to spot check and consider booking at least a portion of your needs.” PD

—From Cotton Incorporated news release