Cottonseed has a blend of crude protein (23%), fat (20%) and crude fiber (24%) that makes it a nearly ideal ingredient in dairy feed formulations. According to Wedegaertner's research, a major reason it hasn't been used more is because of difficulties in handling and storage. "One feed mill operator told me he had to put in $100,000 worth of modifications to his mill so he could handle fuzzy cottonseed," he says. "Such operations would gladly pay a $20 to $30/ton premium to be able to get cottonseed that can go through their existing equipment."
In 1993, Cotton, Inc. began research on a process to improve cottonseed's flowability, working with a company experienced in coatings for candy and pharmaceuticals.
"The company developed a beautiful coating, but it cost $4 a pound," says Wedegaertner. "We were putting 100 pounds on a ton of cottonseed, so the coating alone was worth about $400/ton. But it showed that the process was technologically feasible." The organization then began investigating ways to make the process economically feasible. It took about three years of research testing various coating materials and equipment to reduce the cost to roughly $20/ton.
The EasiFlo process is "almost embarassingly simple," says Wedegaertner. Feedgrade cornstarch is mixed with water and heated to near boiling. The gelatinized paste is "smeared" onto the seed using a simple mixer device. The seed then passes through a belt conveyor dryer to prevent water from penetrating the seed. The end result is a hard, durable crust that seals the lint.