As a burgeoning biodiesel industry continues its binge on U.S. vegetable oil production, including oil pressed from cottonseed, one processor has demonstrated a special appetite for a bygone byproduct of the business — mechanically expelled cottonseed meal, or “old-process” cake.

Formed in 2005 in response to the alternative-fuel boom, Lake Providence, La.-based Hollybrook Cottonseed Processing has developed an extrusion process that more closely resembles the historical method of pressing oil from delinted whole cottonseed.

Chris Troeh, an investor in the Hollybrook venture, explains that solvent processing, which requires the chemical hexane, replaced the mechanical press in the mid-1900s because of its ability to extract more oil. This, of course, meant less oil would remain in the expelled meal. The hexane process also strips away vitamins and antioxidants, which serve as natural feed preservatives.

Adds Buck Chastain, a technical consultant with Albion Advanced Nutrition, Brownstown, Ind., “Old-time feeders remember the old cottonseed meal because of the additional energy it provided. The gals would really slick up and bloom up.”

For economic reasons, the “old process” cottonseed meal became a memory — until now. “Everything comes full circle,” Chastain notes, referring to Hollybrook’s return to a mechanical press — although a more modern, efficient mechanical press. “The good news for beef producers is that the resulting meal retains more of the oil, and all of the cottonseed hull — unlike solvent-extruded meal, which is completely dehulled — for a cake that provides omega-3s, protein and fiber.”

A self-described “big fan” of the Hollybrook cake, Chastain explains why cattle will perform well with this unique three-in-one product. “It’s high in protein like traditional cottonseed meal, but it offers the added benefits of higher fat, which helps slow digestion, and higher fiber from the hulls, which boosts feed efficiency,” he says. “You get more digestibility out of the feed ingredients rather than watching them go out the back end.”

Rebecca Elliott, regional sales representative for Freeport, Ill.-based Furst McNess Company, the exclusive distributor for the Hollybrook cake, says the process brings the opportunity for added value to Mid-South’s cotton farmers and, in turn, provides a nutritious local feed supply for local cattle farmers.

“It’s a unique feed ingredient that in many cases compensates for the weakness of the region’s forages,” she says.

Adds Chastain, the options for using this product in beef production, from creep feed, starter-grower, developing heifer, and bull performance test diets, are “very exciting.”

While traditional cottonseed meal compares at 41 percent protein, 14 percent fiber and 0.5 percent fat, the nutrient profile of Hollybrook’s cake tests at 26 percent protein, 24-25 percent fiber, and 6 percent fat.

“The high fat improves body condition and daily gains, the high fiber levels reduce forage requirements, and the natural phosphorus level reduces mineral supplements while also improving reproduction,” Elliott says. “What’s more, the heat produced during oil extraction actually increases the bypass characteristics of the protein and reduces the free gossypol content.”

With the installation of an on-site pellet mill later this month, Hollybrook soon will add range cube production to its offering, allowing cow/calf and stocker operations to feed with ease, Elliott says.

“Production of the finished good at the point of origin creates freight savings and other synergies that are typically not seen in today’s environment of commercial feed manufacturing,” she says. The cubes provide enough hardness to reduce shrink and improve flowability.

Currently, the cottonseed cake is available in meal form. Bulk meal costs $130 per ton, f.o.b., and $155 per ton, f.o.b. in super bags. Pellets and cubes, available as early as April, will carry a $20 per ton premium and can be delivered on dump trucks, walking floors and hopper bottoms. Producers can call the Furst McNess Company at (800) 622-3276 for a delivered price.