When the last 500 pounds of lint was pressed into a bale ending Bogue Chitto Gin’s 2017 season, the date was Jan. 26, 2018. Gin manager Aaron Litwiller knew it was going to be a record season, but even he was a bit stunned when he peered down at the ten-key calculator on his desk and saw 102,745.
The grades turned out to be exceptional and the seed going into the seed house was of excellent quality as well. “I feel like we really stepped up our game last year,” says Litwiller. “Our grower customers benefitted from the modifications we made pre-season.”
The 12-foot overhead cleaning line was split into two lines — doubling the ginning system’s cleaning capacity. Changes were also made to the gin mote reclamation system that allowed more good fiber to make it into bales, rather than into the trash pile or seed house. “I know we did a better job cleaning fiber last year,” adds Litwiller. “We weren’t having to push as much cotton into and through the cleaners, which made a noticeable difference.”
From Where They Came
Bogue Chitto Gin has experienced incredible volume growth since 2012, when the first bale was pressed on the way to a 35,000-bale season. After the gin’s stockholders acquired funding and a deal was inked with Cherokee Fabrication, construction began and by October 2012, the gin was operational.
The story of cotton’s resurgence in Noxubee County has been chronicled in previous Delta Farm Press issues and the 2018 High Cotton Award winners in the Delta, Jack and Joe Huerkamp, remain an integral part of that historical resurgence.
Along with the Huerkamps, over 100 producers rely on Bogue Chitto Gin to process their seed cotton each year. “Twenty-three of those clients are gin stockholders,” says Litwiller. “Farmers in our area continue to expand their cotton acreage each year, so we try to match each acre increase with the ginning capacity we can offer.”
Additions and improvements to the gin seem to be an annual occurrence. “We noticed that defoliation was not as good last year as in years past,” says Litwiller. “We installed an Uster Rapid Trash Monitor system, integrated with a Samuel Jackson Moisture Mirror 4 system that gives real-time moisture, leaf, and color information to our ginner, Jonathon McBride.”
Litwiller understands the importance the unified system plays in the overall performance of the gin. Through algorithms, the integrated systems now allow McBride to make more informed burner control decisions that lead to optimized cleaning. “If cotton is over-heated, static electricity levels increase, which prevents leaf matter from being extracted,” adds Litwiller. “Despite that defoliation problem last year, we had a target point of keeping our cotton in the two- to three-leaf range. We were able to keep most of our bales in that target range, and subsequently saw a significant decrease in the number of 4- and 5-leaf bales we pressed.”
The gin used more gas per bale in 2017 than in previous years, but Litwiller knows the increased gas cost, compared to what their customers made, was a good economic offset. “Gas is a cost we incur, even though the gin doesn’t really gain anything economically for improving leaf grade,” adds Litwiller. “But if we can hand our farmers more profit per-bale, we know it will pay dividends in the long run.”
RFID, Cottonseed and Contamination
Bogue Chitto Gin continues to work with EWR to implement RFID technology. They realize the advantages using RFID to manage modules will bring to their entire operation. “With new moisture-reading options now available on the John Deere on-board module harvesters, I believe it will change the harvesting practices of growers — especially when they see a reduction in their grades as the sun starts going down each day during harvest,” explains Litwiller. “They’ll be able to see those increased moisture readings and terminate harvest appropriately.”
Litwiller looks forward to tracking modules despite their, sometimes remote, locations. He hopes to increase the efficiency of transfer times. “We’ll have to equip our module trucks and wheel loaders with RFID readers,” explains Litwiller. “When they roll onto the gin yard and unload, the location of each module will be pinned, and with the size of our gin yard, that will be a huge logistical advantage.”
With increased awareness being placed on avoiding bale contamination, the entire gin staff was briefed on best practices, and everyone watched the National Cotton Council’s latest contamination prevention video — “Contamination Free Cotton” that is available on the NCC website: www.cotton.org. “We have been proactive in our efforts to eliminate this problem at our facility,” says Litwiller. “We equipped our module trucks with the proper chains and our staff knows to keep their eyes open to plastics — regardless of the color.”
Increased cotton acreage in Noxubee County translates into increased cottonseed in Bogue Chitto Gin’s massive 9,000-ton seed house. With cottonseed averaging around $160 a ton, that market continues to be depressed. “I relate the depressed cottonseed market to the depressed corn and soybean markets,” says Litwiller. “I’d hate to know we were ginning only 35,000 bales. Volume has really helped us maintain profitability.”
The majority of Bogue Chitto Gin’s cottonseed is trucked to Aberdeen, Miss., where it is loaded on railcars. According to Tom Wedegaertner, director, Cottonseed Marketing, Cotton Incorporated, who keeps tabs on the pulse of the cottonseed market, several additional factors are contributing to current low prices. “Low milk prices, fewer oil mills, and large cotton crops have all impacted the current demand and price for cottonseed,” he says.
“When prices were high a couple of years ago, cottonseed quality in some regions of the Cotton Belt was low, and when some gins shipped poor quality seed at high prices, dairy producers saw the results in their herd’s lower milk production. This caused some dairy producers and nutritionists to develop a negative opinion of cottonseed. It will take time to build back and restore demand. It will be important for all gins to pay attention to the quality of seed they ship. Some dry weather across the Cotton Belt will certainly help.”
Despite the obstacles Litwiller and his staff faced in 2017, it was another record-breaking year for the gin. On ground where once stood a six-farrow house hog operation, now stands a three-stand cotton gin that continues adding chapters to the cotton history of Noxubee County, Miss.