Southern Kansas Cotton Grower’s Gin

(Jim) Good morning folks, welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m your guest host Jim Doblin. We’re in Anthony, Kansas, this morning for a tour of the Southern Kansas Cotton Grower’s Gin. It’s a co-op that’s been around here for many years churning out bales and bales of cotton. Stick around, we’ll have their story plus more after these words from our sponsors.Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Jim) Good morning folks and welcome to this edition of That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Doblin, your guest host for this episode and we’ve been talking a lot about cotton lately, primarily from the growing and harvesting standpoint. But today we are at a cotton gin near Anthony, Kansas. The Southern Kansas Cotton Cooperative. Rex Friesen is the Marketing and Crop Consultant guru of this facility and the one in Winfield. Rex, welcome to the program first of all. (Rex) Thank you. It’s good to be here. (Jim) And this is quite an operation. It is something that I don’t think many Kansans realize that we do. (Rex) I think you’re right. No, we’re very little known in lots of areas. However, in our particular area, we’re a pretty important part of the picture. (Jim) And how long has this facility been in operation and the one in Winfield? Are they about the same age? (Rex) Just about. The gin in Winfield was the first one apart from an earlier gin way back in the early ’80s. There was a small one up towards Sterling. And then the Winfield Gin came in in ’96 and the Anthony Gin here in 1998 and then there’s a couple other gins too out at Moscow, I believe, was in 2002 and Cullison in 2004. (Jim) Well you look at the map and look at the total acreage, which you said was about 20,000 or so. (Rex) This year it is, yes. (Jim) You service…this facility services primarily the south central part of the state. (Rex) That’s correct. (Jim) And so what happens when the farmers bring their cotton in? Do they bring it in all at once? Or do you have a little time in between? And what is the season for ginning? (Rex) Well, the season is…primarily the growing season is from about mid-May until October. And then harvest begins in October until it’s done. And that may stretch, depending on the weather, it may stretch into January, February and hopefully not later than that, but it can depending on the weather. (Jim) Right. And we’re going to get into the facility in the following several segments and see how it’s done. But you still have a considerable number of bales out here to process. (Rex) Well these are actually called modules. (Jim) Modules, excuse me. The bales are the final… (Rex) That’s right. (Jim) That’s right. (Rex) But this amount of modules may look like a lot, but actually it’s not because our gin is able to go through about 25 of these large ones in a day. (Jim) Right. And your vehicles will pick up these modules at the farmer’s field… (Rex) Yes. (Jim) …and transport them here. (Rex) That’s right. (Jim) And where do they end up once the fiber is separated from the seed and all the trash is taken out, where do these bales go? (Rex) The bales will end up in a storage facility out at Liberal. And there they’re held until the bales are all graded for quality and then the marketing pool, which is Plains Cotton Cooperative Association sells them and then they can go to anywhere in the world. (Jim) We’ll talk about pricing and some new technology here in a just a little bit, probably toward the end of the show, but Rex, hang on and you folks hang on at home. We’ll be right back after these words from our sponsor.

(Jim) Alright folks, welcome back to That’s My Farm near Anthony, Kansas, at the Southern Kansas Cotton Cooperative Gin. And we have Sterling Shepard with us today. And Sterling what is your title exactly? (Sterling) I’m the Gin Superintendent. (Jim) You know all about this operation. How long have you been at this? (Sterling) About 10 years now and still learning. (Jim) OK. Well I’m sure. You know you learn something new everyday. (Sterling) Yep. That’s right. (Jim) Some things have changed in 10 years, obviously for the better. And we’ll get into that a little bit later. But take us through the operation when the cotton comes in from the farmer’s field, you bring it in the modules. And then what happens? (Sterling) Well Jim what we do is as the farmer processes his cotton he’ll call in that he has modules built and we’ll assign him a number. And our trucks will go out and pick up the modules and we’ll place them in certain areas on the field as they’re called in. And as they’re called in we gin ’em in that process and the module will be backed into the gin on the roller table where the tarp is taken off. The tag goes to the ginner, the ginner is going to record that number and the bales from that module number will be tracked then to that module. (Jim) So, you can keep track of who’s cotton is who’s. (Sterling) Correct. And also the seed that comes off of that cotton. The module as it’s being chewed up, we’re applying heat directly to it. We have to dry that cotton to clean it up the best we can. The majority of our cotton is stripper cotton so we’re stripping the whole plant, which it strips a lot of leaf and trash with it. We’re trying to get that trash out of that fiber. And as we put the heat to it, we then can put it through the cylinder cleaners and…(Jim) Why is heat important to clean the cotton? (Sterling) So that it can open up those fibers a little bit to let that leaf detach from that fiber. That fiber…when cotton’s wet, it’s gonna hold that leaf and mark and trash into it more. (Jim) And you’ve got actually two heaters going. You bring it through one and then another. (Sterling) Right. The first stage cleaning then is one heater. And then we preheat again to keep it clean…to keep the heat into the cotton. (Jim) Right. And then we’re going to get to what happens after we take this break. Once the cotton is nice and dry and heated then the action begins as far as separating the fiber from the seed. (Sterling) Correct. (Jim) We’ll talk about that when we return. From the Southern Kansas Cotton Gin Cooperative in Anthony, Kansas. Stay with us folks. We’ll be right back.

(Jim) It’s That’s My Farm near Anthony, Kansas, at the Southern Kansas Cotton Cooperative Gin and I’m with Sterling Shepard this morning. And he is the guy who kind of keeps the trains running on time. (Sterling) Well… (Jim) At this gin. (Sterling) It takes, it takes a good team of everybody. (Jim) How many people you got? (Sterling) It takes a good team of 20 people to operate a gin. We have about 10 in the gin itself, a couple in the yard and the truck drivers and the office personnel along with it. (Jim) Alright Sterling, we’re going to continue our tour of your gin. Once the cotton is dried, what happens next? (Sterling) Right. As the cotton is coming in, the ginner is looking at the moisture meters on his console. It’s going to…that is going to control the heaters, how much heat we need to put to it. We want to fluff that cotton to get that trash out. So, after it gets the heat applied to it, and gets into the system, the pickers are taking out the majority of the sticks right off the bat, going through stick machines and then it goes into inclines, cylinders, which are taking the trash off. Then it gets preheated again and more trash is taken off of it, into a feeder above the gin stand and right before the gin stand, it’s soft, pretty much like the stick machines, the whole process is constantly taking trash out. The lint is taken off of the seed… (Jim) Right. That’s the actual gin, right, that’s the actual gin. (Sterling) The gin stand is pulling that lint off of that seed and after it pulls so much off of that seed, that seed will drop into an auger which gets weighed and then blown into our other warehouse. (Jim) Right and right behind you is that warehouse and that’s where the seed ends up. And the seed ends up where? You don’t just throw the stuff away, this has use. (Sterling) Oh yes, this is our main product for the gin itself. It goes to the dairy farmer. The dairy farmer likes it because it is good on the rumin. It acts as a time release capsule for protein going through their stomachs and they really like it. (Jim) And besides the cotton, which you also ultimately bale up into about 500 pound bales, you also have the mote. (Sterling) Yes the mote bale. (Jim) M-O-T-E. (Sterling) Right M-O-T-E. The mote is the immature seed basically in the fiber. It’s a shorter fiber that’s being pulled off the lint as it’s being combed out and it will be processed down to our lint slide. (Jim) And that’s used to make money. (Sterling) Right, they make…it will be reprocessed again. (Jim) Dollar bills. (Sterling) They’ll make money out of it, car seat stuffing, boxes, diapers, that sort. It’s a lower grade quality of cotton. (Jim) There’s not a whole heck of a lot you don’t use out of this batch. (Sterling) Everything is used, our burrs, our gin trash. Our gin trash at this facility all goes to a feedyard, which is mixed with other feed. Our gin trash, which we call the burrs, is also used in composting. And we have a company that composts it and they sell it at Lowe’s and Walmart and other facilities. (Jim) Sterling, stay with us. We’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.

(Jim) We’re back on That’s My Farm at a cotton gin near Anthony, Kansas. We have Sterling Shepard, the man who oversees this operation for the most part on a daily basis at the Southern Kansas Cooperative Gin. And let’s talk about what happens after all of the byproducts are separated out of this cotton. You see a module being off loaded now. But once all of the stuff is separated and you’ve got the cotton, what happens? (Sterling) Well, after we dry and clean the cotton the best we can, take the seed off and the mote, the gin trash is going to the back, we apply moisture to that lint, three to four percent, generally. (Jim) So, you actually take the moisture out in the beginning. (Sterling) Right. (Jim) But in the end you put it back. (Sterling) We put a little back in. Helps give the farmer a little weight. But it’s mainly to relieve a little pressure off of our press because it’s enormous pressure on that press and it’s pressing that 480 pound bale. And after the bale is pressed and tied, you will see a fallout onto the table. It had a, we call it a cookie cutter to take an eight ounce sample of that cotton and an identification tag will go with that sample, rolled up put into a bag, which goes down in Texas for the… (Jim) Inspection. (Sterling) Inspection, right. (Jim) They’re the ones to determine…(Sterling) The government classing office. (Jim)…determines the quality of the cotton. (Sterling) Correct. (Jim) And the higher the quality, the better the price? Or is that how it works? (Sterling) Right. That’s pretty much, pretty much how it works. Of course, nowadays they’re blending a lot more cotton. They don’t necessarily want top grade cotton all the time, they want to blend it with a lower grade, so they can get a lower price cotton sometimes and get a product…a good product made with a lower cost. (Jim) Right. And when we see that bale being formed, the pressure…the compressor, what are we talking about as far as pounds per square…that thing is pretty rock solid? (Sterling) Right. We’re using five motors that will kick on in stages just pressing that cotton. I believe it’s around 250,000 pounds per square inch. Somewhere in that vicinity. So, it’s a tremendous amount of pressure. (Jim) And it ends up in Liberal. That’s where it’s stored. (Sterling) Right. (Jim) And sent out to hither and yon. (Sterling) Right, it will be identified…those numbers that we talked about earlier will stay with that bale. It will be bagged and shipped to Liberal, Kansas, where it will be put into a warehouse and marked up from there. (Jim) Alright, let me ask you from the time these modules go in, until the time the bales come out what are we talking about time wise? (Sterling) Well, on a decent cotton we’re making a bale, two and a half to three minutes. And each one of these modules on an average we’re going to make 11 to 12 bales of cotton. So, and every two and a half to three minutes we’re pulling 600 pounds of seed off of it. And compressing a bale. (Jim) That’s pretty fast. (Sterling) Pretty fast. (Jim) Sterling Shepard, appreciate your time. (Sterling) Thank you. (Jim) And we’ll be back with more after these words from our sponsors from Anthony, Kansas, on That’s My Farm.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m your guest host Jim Doblin along with Rex Friesen. And we are at the Southern Kansas Cotton Growers Cooperative here near Anthony, Kansas, in south central Kansas. (Rex) That’s right. (Jim) And we’ve just gone through the factory and the gin and seen the process. And it’s quite an elaborate process. But it’s a quick process really. (Rex) Yes, it is. (Jim) We’re going to talk now about some of the trends of the industry and the future of cotton. But before we do that, let’s talk about cotton prices and where we are as far as what you’d like to see and where we are now. (Rex) Currently our price is just like, pretty much all the commodities, they’re down lower than we want them to be. (Jim) Right. (Rex) The current market price is somewhere between 62-63 cents a pound and that’s based on pounds of actual lint. (Jim) And you want 70 or above. (Rex) We’d like that yes. (Jim) Yes. That would be ideal. (Rex) Yes. (Jim) What’s the hangup though? China is playing a big part in this? (Rex) China is the elephant in the room. What they do dictates pretty much what happens to prices and currently there is a world glut. That inventory needs to be used up for the prices really to take off again. That probably won’t happen the next couple years. But we are operating at a price that we can still make money. And we are. (Jim) Right. And you have for the past several years? (Rex) Yes. We have. (Jim) Although the total number of acreage has diminished over the past few years. (Rex) Yes it has, and around 2010 I think it was the price of grains went way up. Cotton didn’t. And as a result we lost a lot of acres and we’re still trying to recover some of those. (Jim) Right. And there is hope on a number of fronts technologically, genetically, with some R2 resistant cotton strains coming out in the next couple of years. The farmers I know at least in western Kansas are real excited about that. (Rex) That’s right. There’s new technology in the form of a new…they call it a baler, stripper. It is a harvester that does basically everything. It harvests and packs it into round bales, all as a one man operation. It’s a really exciting operation to watch. (Jim) A one man band. (Rex) Yes it is. And then the genetics that are coming out with cotton with all of the Roundup Ready pigweed that we’re seeing especially we have new genetics that tolerate Liberty and now there’s new varieties coming out that tolerate dicamba and then in 2017 tolerate 2,4-D. (Jim) Right. And that’s important, especially out west but here as well. Now, you mentioned round bales. Why are they so important for the future of the ginning operation? (Rex) Well, I think it’s all about efficiency. Harvest efficiency as well as the problems of finding labor for doing harvest. Harvest traditionally has taken a number of people and more equipment to harvest. This particular machine narrows it down to one person if wanted to be…if needed to be that way. (Jim) Rex Friesen, thank you for joining us today. (Rex) You’re so welcome. (Jim) From the Southern Kansas Cotton Growers Cooperative here near Anthony, Kansas. Folks, that’s all the time we have for this edition of That’s My Farm. Join us next week for another episode. I’m Jim Doblin. We’ll see you later.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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