Would you like netwrap, twine or plastic with your bale?
There’s no argument that two of the biggest factors in the production and quality of hay are weather and timing, but you can’t change the weather and you can’t always control your timing. However, the way you package your bales is all up to you. This choice not only affects productivity in the field, but also the nutritional quality of your bales when you feed them. Your bale packaging material isn’t just about bale presentation, it’s about potential storage losses, herd health, feed value, weight gains, meat/milk production, and fuel and labor costs.
Dry hay — Netwrap versus twine
Of course, if you base your decision strictly on equipment and material costs, twine easily wins. However, twine-wrapped bales can cost you dearly in other ways. For example, compare operating speed. Netwrap requires just two to four rotations per bale versus 20 for twine. In fact, a study conducted by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) shows bale production increased an average of 32 percent per bale when netwrap was applied instead of twine. That’s a lot of time you’re adding to your day.
But those are just a few of the obvious differences. The biggest cost reduction probably happens during handling and storage. In the ASABE study, storage and handling losses were reduced by as much as 65 percent when netwrap was applied instead of twine. Why? Because net wrapped bales maintain their shape with a secure, full-width netted casing; one that’s typically tighter, more uniform and more stable in all types of storage conditions. If you factor in the added strength of a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) netwrap, such as Vermeer™ Net, it increases the protective characteristics of net even more, because it minimizes stretching. No matter how you handle, transport and store your bales, minimizing material loss is the name of the game.
Granted, twine-wrapped bales can also get the job done, but if you are using twine and storing your bales outside, make sure you store them properly on well drained surfaces (like pallets) to reduce water damage. Twine bales stand a better chance if you store them in well-drained or sheltered sites. However, bales wrapped with netwrap almost always fare better, regardless of how well you handle them or maintain them in storage.
*Prices are an estimate of MSRP. Prices subject to change. Check local Vermeer dealer for updating pricing. These costs do not factor in time, hay losses, fuel, added labor or the increased cost of machine wear and tear.
How about high-moisture baleage?
Plastic wrap is the most common material used to package high-moisture bales because it’s the best way to properly encase them. However, to create a smoother bale surface, Vermeer also recommends net wrapping them first. This reduces the possibility of holes in the film. Netwrap is also recommended over rodenticide-treated sisal twine, because the latter tends to degrade the plastic film.
After wrapping the bale in netwrap, Vermeer recommends a minimum of six wraps of low-density polyethylene plastic wrap about 1 mil in thickness, with 55 percent stretch capability. Plastic-wrapped bales should be positioned north-to-south. This helps prevent the sun’s ultraviolet rays from prematurely degrading one side of the plastic-wrapped bales. Plastic wrap also needs to be regularly monitored and patched as quickly as possible if the casing is damaged. To minimize handling and reduce damages, the plastic-wrapping process needs to take place relatively close to the ultimate storage site. Once the bales are completely wrapped in plastic, don’t move or handle them for 12 hours. Squeezing them after that timeframe could break the seal of the film layers, potentially exposing the bales to oxygen and restarting the aerobic phase. Other than the risk of holes, plastic-wrapped bales are relatively low maintenance after production is completed.
The better bale
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing the bale packaging process that best fits your operation. The key is understanding your risks and real costs in labor and time, plus the commitment you’re willing to make to minimize potential hay losses.
For more information about Vermeer hay and forage products, visit Vermeer.com.