Despite farmers planting 11 percent fewer cotton acres in 2012 compared to 2011, a more “normal” summer could produce more harvestable acres, and more whole cottonseed available for dairy cows.

"The weather is definitely looking better than last year, but 2011 was historically dry and absolutely terrible,” says John Robinson, professor and Extension economist, cotton marketing, Texas A&M University. “‘Hot and dry’ would describe a neutral condition in Texas, but portions of the state remain in severe or extreme drought.”

With 87 percent of the 13.2 million cotton acres planted, according to USDA’s June 2012 Crop Progress report, the focus has turned sharply to crop quality. As of the week ending June 3:

  • 54 percent of the total cotton crop in 15 states was reported in “good” or “excellent” condition, 45 percent was rated “fair,” and 9 percent was rated “poor” or “very poor.”
  • In Texas, which will plant half the cotton crop in 2012, 37 percent was reported “good” or “excellent,” 40 percent “fair,” and 13 percent “poor” or “very poor.”

As for what to expect with cottonseed pricing, Robinson says the answer hinges on harvested acres of lint. “The demand outlook for cottonseed is fairly neutral with increasing dairy consumption possibly offsetting consumption declines in the beef cattle sector. What’s going to drive prices is the supply side of the equation, which will likely be a function of more lint acres harvested in 2012 than in 2011.”

According to Tom Wedegaertner, director of agricultural research, Cotton Incorporated, producers need to keep an eye on the weather and take a look at prices. “Many producers who’ve taken cottonseed out of the ration in recent years may not even realize cottonseed prices have come down. It’s always a good idea to spot check and consider booking at least a portion of your needs. There is no other single ingredient that can mimic cottonseed’s ‘triple-nutrient’ combination of high protein, energy and fiber.”

In addition to contacting their nutritionist or cottonseed merchant for information and pricing on cottonseed, producers can use the Cottonseed Marketplace to receive free price quotes from participating merchants nationwide.

Production insights from John Robinson:

  • 2011 crop: 15.5 million bales with an increase in plantings but major drought and abandonment.
  • 2012 crop: Projecting 17 million bales, more production on less acreage, due to better growing conditions and less abandonment.

Analysis: Cotton production will be higher, so cottonseed production should be higher. Production could swing +/-1 million bales, just depending on the weather. So there’s a fair amount of variability around that forecast.
Bottom Line: “If all goes well, we could see an additional half million tons of whole cottonseed available for feeding in 2012,” according to Wedegaertner.