Higher cotton acreages combined with ideal growing conditions across most of the Cotton Belt could double the supply of whole fuzzy cottonseed available to dairy producers in 2010-11, compared to 2009-10.

According to the USDA's World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report released Aug. 12, the 2010 cotton harvest will total 18.5 million bales, up from the 18.3 million forecast in July, and a 52 percent increase over the previous season's 12.1 million bales.

"What this means for dairy producers is an anticipated 100 percent increase in the amount of whole cottonseed available for feeding," notes Tom Wedegaertner, director of cottonseed research and marketing at Cotton Inc. "If favorable weather continues, we will net 6.3 million tons of cottonseed this year, up from last year's 4.1 million tons. After the crush, which will use 2.5 million tons, 3.8 million tons will be available for dairy cows, compared to just 1.9 million tons last year."

The cottonseed projections have created an expectation of lower prices, but Wedegaertner cautions dairy producers to consider what may happen to the cotton crop between now and fall harvest. "Historically, prices are most favorable during harvest, but new crop may already have seen its low. Right now, it's all about the weather."

In its Aug. 4 report, the Colorado State University Hurricane Forecast Team gave a 49 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast, from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville, this fall. The long-term average is 30 percent, according to the report.

"Right now, the Texas crop, which accounts for half of the U.S. total, is looking phenomenal," Wedegaertner says, "but in other areas, like Georgia, the cotton is burning up and needs moisture.
"Dairy producers should stay vigilant of the weather and book at least a portion of their needs as they are able," he adds.