Until recently, cotton gin trash has been a “best-kept secret” at Joe Fernandes & Sons Dairy in Porterville, Calif.

The dairy began using gin trash several years ago during an El Niño, when wet weather threatened to wreak havoc on their open-lot corrals. The gin trash had good water-absorbency, which helped keep the corrals in fairly good shape.

“It’s like a diaper,” Jared Fernandes says of gin trash and its water-absorbency.  “Amazingly, when we clear it out, the ground is dry underneath.”

The Fernandeses built free-stall barns a few years later, but continued the use of gin trash as a bedding source in the maternity area during the winter. (They switch to almond shells in the summer because the shells have a cooler feel to them.)

A cotton gin near their farm gives the trash free-of-charge to cotton growers. (The Fernandeses grow cotton, so they qualify.) 

However, Jared Fernandes says he expects that will change as demand for gin trash increases. “I think my days (of free gin trash) are numbered.”