It’s hard to believe Christmas is almost here. Even more surprising isn’t how quickly the time is moving, but how nice the weather has been in South Dakota this December. Sure, we’ve had a few cold, snowy days, but more often than not, we’re outside doing chores in hooded sweatshirts and jeans — a rarity for this time of year.
This temperate weather has allowed our herd to graze on corn stalks, and we’re hoping to get a few more weeks in before we will need to start feeding hay. Once the cold decides to hit, we’ll bring them closer to home and settle in for several months of daily hay feeding.
With forage stockpiled and ready to go, the hard work of putting the hay up may be in the rear view mirror, but removing net wrap and twine is an equally burdensome chore that can get old pretty fast when you’re removing strings in the dead of winter.
It can be tempting to leave a few strings or a chunk of net wrap when we’re tired or in a hurry, but inevitably, the cows will chomp this down just as quickly as the hay. The results can be detrimental to animal health, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln forage specialist, especially since twine can accumulate in the rumen and cause obstruction.
Anderson writes, "In a series of experiments, researchers at North Dakota State University discovered that neither plastic net wrap nor biodegradable twine get digested by rumen microbes. Sisal twine, however, does get digested, although quite a bit more slowly than hay.
“In another study, net wrap was included in the ration fed to steers for an extended period of time. Then, 14 days before the steers were harvested, the net wrap was removed from the feed to learn if the net wrap eaten earlier might get cleared out of the rumen and digestive system. Turns out it was still in the rumen even after 14 days.
“So what should you do? First, remember that it doesn’t appear to be a health concern very often. Cows are obviously more at risk than feedlot animals. So, it might be wise to remove as much twine, especially plastic twine, as can be removed easily from bales before feeding. Twine in ground hay may be less of a problem since more of it is likely to pass completely through the animal.”
Anderson says to think twice about taking shortcuts to reduce the work load this winter and consider the long-term effect on your animals. Removing twine may be a chore, but it’s better for herd health and cow longevity.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.