Use your baler’s bale counter to find out if the twine you’re using is worth what it costs, advise representatives of two baler-twine manufacturing companies.
Well-known suppliers usually deliver what they promise, but spools of lesser-known brands may not have as much length as the labels state, they warn.
“What’s on the bag should be in the bag,” says Deb Howard, business manager at Universal Cooperatives, a major sisal-twine supplier.
“The only way you’re going to find out is if you pay attention and count the number of bales you get per spool of twine,” adds Jade Sherman, marketing and sales manager at Bridon Cordage, the biggest polypropylene plastic-twine manufacturer. “You’ll notice it if the strength isn’t there, but a lot of people aren’t using their bale counters like they should be.”
Even if the package contains the labeled length, the twine you’re using might not be the most economical. For example, Sherman says 9,000’-per-bale twine with a 130-lb knot strength is a popular choice for small square bales. But a 7,200’-per-bale product with a 190-lb knot strength may be a better buy because more hay can be packed into each bale.
“I think the savvy, larger custom operators do the math,” he says. “But a guy who’s just baling for his own consumption may not take the time to look at that.
“I don’t think enough focus is put on baler twine,” he adds. “Most of the emphasis and most of the time spent is on other inputs, and twine is too often an afterthought.”
Sherman says three manufacturers – Bridon Cordage, FabPro Oriented Polymers and PolyExcel – account for about 75% of North-American plastic-twine sales. The remaining 25% is imported from countries like Costa Rica, Portugal and Vietnam.
Plastic twine dominates in the Western U.S., and is the only type used in big square balers. All plastic twines have ultraviolet (UV) inhibitors, but those sold in the Southwest have extra UV protection because of the intense sunlight in that region.
In the Eastern U.S., the market is about evenly divided between plastic and sisal, he says. Although plastic twine is stronger, livestock producers prefer sisal because it’s made of natural fibers that break down over time. Photodegradable plastic twines are available for round bales, but they’re more expensive than sisal and don’t break down as fast.
Sherman thinks hay to be shipped long distances should be baled with plastic, non-degradable twine rather than degradable sisal twine for safety reasons.
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All sisal twine sold in the U.S. is imported, mostly from Brazil, and most sales are east of the Mississippi River, says Howard. Her co-op owns the largest Brazilian sisal-twine factory. Like Bridon’s U.S. plastic-twine plants, its Quality Management System is ISO-certified, ensuring that every bale meets the specifications stated on the bag, she says.
When evaluating sisal-twine quality, check the bale weight, she advises. Most of her company’s twines weigh 38 lbs per bale, but some less expensive brands are lighter.
“When you get to a 36-lb bale, not only will you get less footage, but you’ll get a lower knot and tensile strength,” says Howard. “As the weight of the product drops, everything drops accordingly.”
She says to buy familiar brands from companies that stand behind their products. “If the price is too good to be true, more than likely there’s something wrong with it.”
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