Net wrap is widely used as a hay binding material, but it does come with its disadvantages. Unwrapping a bale is time consuming and sometimes frustrating. Labor is a valuable resource so producers are always looking for the most effective and efficient way to remove net wrap from bales being fed.

Olivia Amundson, South Dakota State University extension cow-calf specialist, explains in a recent SDSU Livestock Newsletter the advantages and drawbacks to using net wrap.

Using net wrap is more productive and efficient than sisal twine and looks better, too. Less dry matter is lost from net-wrapped bales compared to those wrapped with twine. Net-wrapped bales hold their shape better during handling and transportation and also offer improved preservation in wet conditions.

However, if net-wrapped bales are not stored under a roof, snow and ice can make removing net wrap difficult. Bales stored outside are also susceptible to water pooling at the bottom of the bale.

The biggest disadvantage to net-wrapped bales is the time and frustration that comes with taking off the net wrap. As such, some farmers leave the net wrap on the bale and grind it along with the hay. Net wrap that is left behind can accumulate in the rumen, causing plastic disease, which affects cattle health and performance.

Removing the wrap

Depending on how the bale is being fed changes the method of removing the net wrapping. Simple tips can help producers who feed bales in feeders to remove net wrap.

“If using bale forks to lift the bale into the feeder, the forks should enter the lower half of the bale at approximately a 20-degree angle, this allows the bale to be lifted above the feeder without slipping off the forks,” Amundson explains. “Prior to lifting the bale, find the end of the net wrap and securely tuck it under the wrap at the top of the bale.

“When preparing to place the bale in the feeder, tilt the forks to a thirty-degree angle and find the starting point of your net wrap; the part that was previously tucked in the top portion. Once found, start unraveling the net wrap. To keep the net wrap from becoming a pile on the ground, wrap it or bundle it as you move your way around the bale until all the net wrap has been removed from the bale,” she concluded.

If the bale is being fed in the pasture or off the back of a hydra bed, ensure the bale doesn’t come apart when traveling to the field. Amundson offers this four-step process:

1. Remove the top one-third of the bale and use it as a string.

2. Once the top one-third is three-fourths of the way removed, take the unraveled one-third and wrap it around the body of the bale. Take one end of the string and tie an overhand loop knot.

3. Take the other end and pull it through the loop, then pull tightly, then tie and secure.

4. Once the string is secured tightly around the entire bale, remove the rest of the net wrap. This allows the bale to remain intact while transferring it to another location.

Photo: South Dakota State University

Michaela King

Michaela King served as the 2019 Hay & Forage Grower summer editorial intern. She currently attends the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and is majoring in professional journalism and photography. King grew up on a beef farm in Big Bend, Wis., where her 4-H experiences included showing both beef and dairy cattle.