New Study Finds Whole Cottonseed Is a Valuable Option for Feedlots

Published on Wed, 01/27/2021 - 2:56pm

New Study Finds Whole Cottonseed Is a Valuable Option for Feedlots

When designing finishing diets for beef cattle, two factors are key: price and performance. Cotton byproducts are readily and locally available throughout the southwestern U.S., which often makes them economical and convenient choices for the region’s many feedlots, but how do they perform?

A team of researchers at Oklahoma State University and the University of Arkansas recently tackled this question with a study analyzing key performance indicators, such as performance, efficiency and carcass traits, when beef steers are fed cotton byproducts in their finishing diets.1 Until now, few studies had analyzed cotton byproducts as the primary sources of protein, fat and fiber for beef cattle in a feedlot setting.

Two groups, each containing 32 crossbred steers, were used for the study. The control group was fed a common diet of prairie hay, Sweet Bran, rolled corn and a liquid fat supplement. The experimental group was fed a diet that included cotton gin trash, whole cottonseed, rolled corn and water. Both diets contained urea and dry supplement.

Upon evaluation of results, the research team concluded that whole cottonseed (WCS) and cotton gin trash (CGT) 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.

“Cotton byproducts are not new to feedlots in cotton-growing regions, but producers now have the data to prove how they perform in feedlot rations,” said Tom Wedegaertner, director of cottonseed research at Cotton Incorporated.

Low- to medium-quality hay is often used as the primary roughage in finishing diets, but it can get expensive.1 CGT is a low-energy, low-protein source of physically effective fiber that can be a more economical option for producers compared to traditional roughages.2 CGT is light and low-density, so it’s best suited for local shipment. However, transportation is often the only cost for the byproduct and there is very little competition with other livestock species.

Unlike other feedstuff options, WCS has a unique nutrient composition making it a good source of fat and protein, while also providing additional fiber to the diet.3 As a triple-nutrient feedstuff, WCS may reduce the need for traditional roughages as well as additional protein and fat supplementation in feedlot diets.4

Interested in adding cottonseed to your cattle’s diet? Learn more about the feedstuff or find a seller near you at

1Warner, 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.
2Meyer, R. O. 2007. Cotton gin trash: Alternative roughage feed for beef cattle. AN177. Gainesville (FL): University of Florida, IFAS Extension.
3Kellog, 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
4Cranston, J. J., J. D. Rivera, M. L. Galyean, M. M. Brashears, J. C. Brooks, C. E. Markham, L. J. McBeth, and C. R. Krehbiel. 2006. Effects of feeding whole cottonseed and cottonseed products on performance and carcass characteristics of finishing beef cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 84:2186–2199. doi:10.2527/ jas.2005-669