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UGA researcher uses ‘cotton cake’ as protein supplement for dairy cows

cotton cake

Cottonseed is not only more readily available to Georgia farmers, it is also less expensive. Pictured is cotton seed and cotton cake — photo courtesy University of Georgia

John Bernard, a professor and dairy scientist at the University of Georgia Tifton campus, has found “cotton cake” to be an effective protein supplement for dairy cattle.

Cotton cake is a type of cottonseed meal, the solid material that remains after oil is extracted from cottonseed and is made from products that would otherwise be wasted. The cotton cake Bernard has formulated is composed of a slightly different nutrient makeup than the raw material.

Bernard discovered that cotton cake provides dairy cattle with an alternate source of protein than the commonly used soybean meal.

“We really have to watch how much fat we put in their diets, so when they can get the extruder fine-tuned to reduce the oil content in the cotton cake, it makes that product better for feeding cattle,” he said.

Bernard conducted a feeding trial in lactating dairy cattle on the UGA Tifton campus that compared three different diets. One diet used all soybean and heat-treated soybean meal products. In the others, Bernard replaced either the soybean product or the heat-treated soybean meal with cotton cake. In every diet tested, cattle produced comparable amounts of milk with similar composition.

“The bottom line is, this product could very easily be used in a diet to replace some of the soybean meal, whether it’s regular soybean meal or heat-treated soybean meal product,” he said.

A soybean substitute

Knowing that cotton cake is a good substitute for soybean meal allows dairy producers to make informed decisions about what to feed their cattle as prices for feed ingredients fluctuate throughout the year. Cottonseed is not only more readily available to Georgia farmers, it is also less expensive. Therefore, it could save producers money.

“We’re always looking for protein supplements and evaluating those on cost per unit of protein,” said Bernard.

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Cattle farmers are not the only beneficiaries of this product; cotton growers are too.

“This research is designed to keep people buying cottonseed products, to hopefully keep those prices high for cotton farmers,” said Tom Wedegaertner, director of cottonseed research at Cotton Inc.

Because cows can use the protein in cotton cake to break down fibers that are dangerous to humans, consumers also benefit.

“There are always opportunities to look at new products that become available when processing grains or oilseed to produce something that is going to be more suitable for humans or somewhere in the industry,” Bernard said.

He is one of few scientists in the United Stats who are conducting research on cotton cake as a protein supplement for dairy cattle.

The low production numbers are likely due to the small number of factories that produce cotton cake across the country. In fact, the mill Bernard used to conduct his research is no longer located in Georgia.

The University of Georgia contributed this article.