Ask A Rancher: Does Cottonseed Benefit Beef Cattle?

Published on Tue, 08/24/2021 - 12:01pm

Ask A Rancher: Does Cottonseed Benefit Beef Cattle?

 By Kayla Keyser.

 Dairy producers have been using whole cottonseed (WCS) in their cattle rations for decades, but they’re not the only ones. Beef producers have also seen the benefits of feeding cottonseed to their cattle, and recent data has proven its performance as well.

As a triple-nutrient feed ingredient, containing protein, available fat and effective fiber1, WCS has a lot to offer nutritionally. Its protein supports muscle growth and animal development2, while the fiber supports rumen function and digestive health3, and the fat helps improve body condition.4

A new study also found that WCS and cotton gin trash can effectively be used as the primary protein, fat and fiber sources in finishing diets without causing adverse effects on growth performance, feed efficiency, carcass characteristics or ruminal degradability. In fact, cattle on the cotton-based diet demonstrated higher dry matter intake, average daily gain, final body weights and fat thickness. There were no notable differences in gain to feed ratio, marbling or ribeye area.5

It’s clear WCS can be beneficial in an experimental setting, but what about on a real operation?

Alisa Ogden is co-owner and manager of a cattle ranch in southeastern, New Mexico. Her family has been ranching since 1890 and farming cotton since 1916.

“We have fed whole cottonseed to our calves at weaning since the 1960s and continue to feed it in the ration for the calves,” explained Alisa. “It’s an easy, affordable source of energy for them, especially since we raise the cotton and can keep our own seed to feed.”

Alisa also shared that they used to feed cottonseed cake, a convenient product made by their local oil mill, but when the mill closed down, they didn’t have an easy way to source cake anymore. Instead, they add whole cottonseed to their ration after grinding.

“We feed whole cottonseed as a part of the ration we grind consisting of alfalfa hay, hegari, wheat or triticale hay and/or Sudan hay,” said Alisa.

It’s more than just convenient for their operation, though. WCS has also provided proven performance differences when used in their rations.

“Cottonseed is the energy source plus protein,” said Alisa. “There is a marked difference in the weight of the calves when marketing them if they have had whole cottonseed in the ration. It is a great supplement, even if they are grazing pasture.”

Learn more about the benefits of feeding whole cottonseed to beef cattle at  

1Kellog, D. W., J. A. Pennington, Z. B. Johnson, and R. Panivivat. 2001. Survey of management practices used for the highest producing DHI herds in the Unites States. J. Dairy. Sci. 84:E120– E127. doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(01)70206–8
2Parish, J., Protein requirements of beef cattle. Mississippi State University Extension website. Available at: April, 2009. Accessed January 28, 2021.  
3Parish, J., Fiber in beef cattle diets. Mississippi State University Extension website. Available at: Accessed January 28, 2021.
4Comerford, J.W., Added fat in the ration of beef cows to enhance reproduction. Penn State Extension website. Available at: . January 2, 2014. Accessed June 2, 2020.
5Warner, Andrea L., et al. Effects of utilizing cotton byproducts in a finishing diet on beef cattle performance, carcass traits, fecal characteristics, and plasma metabolites. American Society of Animal Science, 4 Feb. 2020, doi:10.1093/jas/skaa038.