While cotton acres have been in free-fall the past few years, demand and price for cottonseed have never been better.

And a Georgia company with operations in Mississippi, is perfecting a system to extract added value from gin trash while reducing the overall volume of trash to be disposed of.

“Marketing cottonseed offers an opportunity to improve profitability for a gin,” Austin Rose, president of Cape & Sons, Abilene, Texas, said at the annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at Memphis.

“Although prices are down somewhat from the extremely high $385 to $390 per ton we saw last year, they’re still at a very high level.”

Rose, who has more than three decades’ experience in the cottonseed and cottonseed oil marketing arena, says the market for cottonseed is “changing rapidly” these days, and the outlook is difficult to forecast.

Dairies, the major users of cottonseed for feed, saw milk prices peak last summer, then fall off as prices for other commodities retreated.

Prices for exported cottonseed were strong in early 2008, then fell back.

“Cottonseed markets can change almost daily,” Rose says. “Good communication is the key to doing business in these markets.

“Know who you’re dealing with; investigate the reputation of prospective buyers and check their credit history; and review all contracts, discuss discrepancies, and correct them immediately.”

Ginners, Rose says, should also “know your position and how much seed you have to offer so you can take immediate advantage of any favorable market situation.

“I’m encouraged by the way things look for the cottonseed market this year, and if you go into it with a plan in mind, you should be able to capitalize on opportunities that occur.”

Julian Beall III, president of TJ Beall Company, West Point, Ga., says a system developed by his firm can improve a gin’s profitability through reclamation of fiber that now goes into trash.

“It is one of the more positive developments in the ginning industry,” he says.

The company, a pioneer in the utilization of gin motes, installed the system at Tanner Gin, Frogmore, La., to recover pre-cleaning mote fiber.

Advantages, Beall says, are the opportunity to use and obtain income from fiber that would otherwise be wasted, an average reduction in the gin trash pile of about 50 percent, reduced cost for removal/disposal of remaining gin trash, and easier incorporation of that trash into the soil.

The system is currently installed at 14 gins in the Mid-South and Southeast. The Beall company also buys gin motes, textile waste, sample loose cotton, and damaged cotton, which it processes at its Money, Miss., Wildwood Gin. It also has a 750,000-square foot warehouse at Drew, Miss.

“The reclamation systems now in place have yielded a wide range of fiber qualities,” Beall says. “On average, they have doubled the motes volume while cutting gin trash volume in half.”

He cautions, however, that the system is “in its infancy — there are still adjustments to be made and work to be done in refining the system.

“It’s not a simple process, and used with traditional machinery and practices, it may yield disappointing results. We’re still working to determine the proper machinery configurations.

“To be practical, quality must take precedence over quantity,” Beall says. “But we’re pleased with what we’ve seen thus far, and we’re committed to the future of this system.”

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com