Cotton seed feed cost skyrockets as ginners say ‘no more’

Feed blow in drought as cotton seed suppliers clam up

Terry Hanigan, "Hollywood", Coonamble, pictured last year,  swears by cotton seed stockfeed which he says is a perfect supplement for cattle, especially in drought. Photo by Rachael Webb

Terry Hanigan, "Hollywood", Coonamble, pictured last year, swears by cotton seed stockfeed which he says is a perfect supplement for cattle, especially in drought. Photo by Rachael Webb


'We'll have no cotton seed stockfeed by November'


Cotton seed stockfeed in Australia could dry up by November as many besieged ginners announced they’d only sell to existing clients, with many putting an interim ban on sales as they try to keep ginning operations going.

Drought-hit farmers have beset ginners looking for cotton seed stockfeed supplies, but the demand has forced many to close up sales in the interim. Meanwhile prices have skyrocketed from about $350 a tonne a few weeks ago with some now asking over $450 a tonne.

Struggling with the drought, graziers in the Bourke district have been hit by another blow with Clyde Cotton saying it will not sell anymore cotton seed for stockfeed.

The last consignments have gone to a feedlot in the Darling Downs and Clyde said it was keeping what it had left for its own cattle.

Graziers had been desperate for the cotton seed in the area to keep stock going in the parched landscape.

Helen Ponder, “Avondale Station”, Bourke, who is also NSW secretary of the Isolated Childrens and Parents Association, said she was now in a major dilemma on where to source feed after the cotton seed option was taken away by Clyde. The Ponders run  about 3000 Merino sheep and the cotton seed feed had picked up their sheep “to where they were before the drought”.

“We were upset  that they (Clyde) have sold it all to one cattleman and that has left us in the lurch,” she said. The Ponders are now exhausting all avenues to try and source cotton seed somewhere else. The prime feed, which can be made into a meal, has protein of over 20 per cent and is excellent for both sheep and cattle. Clyde had told local graziers that the cotton seed would only go to existing clients.

Clyde’s accountant Geoff Knox said the business had been selling cotton seed for 12 months “so now we’ve reached a point where we’ve sold it all,” he said. “It wasn’t hard to sell to people, they were pretty desperate for it.”

Clyde sells to a number of feedlots on the Darling Downs, who have also been anxiously looking for stockfeed. Clyde’s large big cotton seed feed consignment was to Trilby Station.

But Namoi Cotton was now selling in Bourke – but only to existing clients, with the price well above $400 a tonne.

Geoff Shirtcliff, cotton seed trading manager at Namoi Cotton, said Namoi Cotton has entered back in the market at Bourke, but the company was selling only to existing clients.

Asked if Namoi was selling above $400 a tonne, he said “yes”, but wouldn’t say what price he was selling at. It’s known that some suppliers are asking fro $450 a tonne, while rumours abound that the price is getting close to $500 a tonne. Namoi was not selling anywhere else at this stage, Mr Shirtcliff said.

 “We are busy ginning and we need a break from selling cotton seed. There’s a lot we have to do with a big cotton harvest and there’s a lot of paperwork with trucks turning up. We’ll contact our existing clients when we will re-enter the market. We are not extorting anybody, we we don’t plan on sitting on large amounts of cottonseed. If I’m all sold out by September, then that’s that.

He said there had been “insatiable demand” for the top drought stockfeed. “It’s a very good drought seed,” he said. “But if you calculate how many sheep and cattle there are in Australia and they eat two kilos a day it’s not hard to see you will run out pretty quick. So price will eventually kill demand. People just won’t be able to afford to pay for it. Once we’ve finished selling we’ve finished.”

He predicted cereal seed from Western Australia would be the saviour for drought-affected farmers  heading into summer. “They’ll be transporting grain from there for some time.”

There was a fair chance all cotton seed stockfeed supplies in Australia could run out from November and none would be imported. Supplies may continue in southern NSW where ginning was still underway and the ginning season finished later.

Related:This drought has made it clear more than preparedness needed 

“Leading into spring and then summer If there’s no rain, people will have to make some tough decisions  won’t they. It’s tough on everybody. I don’t enjoy working in this environment either. It is what it is, a bad drought.”

Terry Hanigan, “Hollywood”, Coonamble swears by cotton seed as a stockfeed. He’s still feeding out to his cattle but wasn’t sure where he would get supplies if most ginners were stopping sales.

He purchased some feed from Auscott at Warren about four weeks ago. He’d heard now that the price had gone up to $500 a tonne at some ginners. It was selling for only $250 to $350 a tonne six months ago.

“It’s great feed for cattle at about 22 per cent protein. We feed about four kilos a of white cotton seed per cow every third day. But if it goes to $500 a tonne I’m not sure how long I can keep that up for.”

Auscott didn’t want to comment on the current market. Most ginners have complained they under stress from feed requests and needed a break from sales.


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