Our cattle are still on summer grass, but it won’t be long before we bring them closer to home for the winter months and start feeding hay. It's just part of the job of feeding hay to cattle during the winter, but I’m not looking forward to standing in the cold, fumbling with a pocket knife or pliers to cut and pull twine string from the bales.
Some folks skip that tedious step by just grinding or shredding the hay, but for those of you in the twine or net wrap camp, you do run a risk of cattle ingesting the hay-binding material if it's not removed. It's more of a risk for cows than feedlot animals, but some cattle have become fatally impacted after ingesting excessive twine or net wrap.
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How concerned should you be about your cows eating net wrap or twine? That’s the question researchers at North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension and the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station decided to look into. In the recently released 2014 North Dakota Beef Report, they reported their results.
In the study, researchers looked at the various hay bale-binding materials that ranchers commonly use. They wanted to address concerns about the health impacts fromcattle 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 60% 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. 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.”
We make every effort at home to remove the twine from the bales we feed. However, I'll admit that sometimes when the twine is frozen to the bottom of the bale and breaks off as you try to pull it loose, it is easier said than done to get it all. Net wrap can be an even bigger challenge to remove if it's frozen to the bale. Nonetheless, I'm definitely keeping the results of this research in the back of my mind as we feed hay this winter.
Is this a concern for you? Were you surprised by the results of the study? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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