“The simplest things… Feeding Hay”

— Written By and last updated by Margaret Green

When we drive around Franklin County during the winter months, we see bales of round hay being fed to livestock in pastoral settings. Those 800-lb. plus round bales of compacted hay were cut, cured, and baled during the favorable growing season of the spring, summer, and fall. Over the years, methods of securing the bales into a round sphere have evolved… from using a sisal twine to plastic net wraps.

Some livestock producers take the tedious step of removing the net wrap, while some do not. If you do not remove the plastic, you run the risk of livestock, especially cattle, ingesting the hay-binding material, which can cause fatal impactions after ingesting excessive twine or net wrap.

In a recent University Extension report, researchers looked at the various hay bale-binding materials that producers commonly use. They wanted to address concerns about the health impacts from cattle ingesting excessive amounts of net wrap or sisal twine. Based on their research, they found that three types of net wrapping and biodegradable twine did not disappear in the rumen 14 days after the cattle ingested the wrappings, but more than 70% of the sisal twine did disappear after the two-week period.

According to the report, “Whether producers remove net wrap or twine prior to grinding or shredding bales is an individual decision that largely is dictated by time, cost of the bale-processing equipment and ability to pull net wrap off frozen bales. We evaluated the dry-matter disappearance of five different types of bale-binding material: 3 varieties of plastic net wraps, a biodegradable twine, and the old-fashioned sisal twine. After 14 days of incubation in the rumen of Holstein steers, no disappearance was detected in the three types of net wrap or one type of biodegradable twine evaluated. Whether complications occur as a result of the accumulation of consumed net wrap likely is based on the volume of the product consumed and the ability of the plastic particles to move through the digestive tract.”

Moral of story: make every effort on the farm to remove the twine from the bales you feed. The plastic residue can be deadly for your animals if they ingest the products, as well as getting wrapped around both animal and human feet and machinery blades or equipment for a longtime to come. Keep your feeding areas and pastures clean from the plastic residues!

Feel free to visit your local Franklin County Cooperative Extension Office at 103 South Bickett Blvd., Louisburg, NC. You can reach us at 919-496-3344. To stay up-to-date on events and activities, don’t forget to visit us on Facebook.