Even supplemental livestock feeds are getting pricey. Whole cottonseed prices, for example, are nearly double those of an average year, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
"Cottonseed is selling for an amazing $340/ton due to feed shortages and short (cotton) supply," says Mark Brown, AgriLife Extension agent in Lubbock County.
A lot of producers today would be glad to pay $340 per ton – if they could find it at that price, says Ellen Jordan, AgriLife Extension dairy specialist based in Dallas. It's all about supply and demand, and the drought.
"Demand is going to surpass cottonseed supply this year by far," Jordan adds. "Not only do we have the dairies looking for cottonseed, but people are looking for cottonseed to extend their forage supply to their beef cattle."
Regional feed prices in Comanche were $398 and in Friona, $393/ton at the end of October, Jordan notes.
On an average year, when demand isn't so high and there's a better cotton crop, prices usually hover around $200/ton, she says.
For those feeding the supplement, there is a limit to how much cottonseed can be safely fed to a large ruminant such as a dairy or beef cow, Jordan cautions.
"If you feed more than about 8 lbs/cow/day, there can be some reproductive and other issues. Those are the levels that we put as the maximum for dairy cattle, but all cattle will have issues with feeding too high a level of cottonseed. We usually feed it at a rate of about 5 lbs/head/day (of whole cottonseed).”
Weatherwise, Texas continued by the last week of October to be in one stage of drought or another, with more than 70% of the state under severe to exceptional drought conditions, according the U.S drought monitor.
Although rains greened up pastures and rangeland, and gave winter wheat producers some hope, forage and hay remained scare throughout the state, according to AgriLife Extension county agent reports.
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force Web site.