Why You Should Always Remove the Net Wrap on Round Bales for Cattle

by Caitlyn Andrews March 20, 2018

Tips for Feeding Cattle Round Bales

Producers that fail to remove the net wrap from their round bales could be causing serious problems for themselves and their livestock in the future.

Net wrap refers to the wrapping or string that binds hay together. Round bales are commonly fed to cattle and the net wrap that keeps them together comes in different materials.

It doesn't matter what type of wrap is used or whether the hay bales are fed whole or after grinding, many producers leave the wrap on.


Any producer can tell you that removing the net wrap is time-consuming. It's pretty simple to remove the baling twine from a small, square bale. But anyone with more than a couple cows probably isn't feeding square bales. They're convenient for small herds, but not cost-effective. And removing the net wrap from larger, round bales can be a pain.

 Round Bale Feeding Cattle Hay

If you aren't removing the wrap yourself then you might find it on the ground when the cows are done eating. You might assume that your cattle won't eat the wrap. That they'll know it's inedible and leave it alone.

Never assume your cattle won't eat the net wrap!

Bored, curious, or hungry cows can find the wrap tempting when looking for something to chew. This can cause some problems.

What happens when cattle eat the net wrap on hay?

You probably won't know right away if your cattle have been eating net wrap. 

Cattle cannot digest net wrap. It has a tendency to accumulate in the rumen over time. The most common symptom of net wrap consumption is weight loss. Most cattle will lose their appetite or appear to gradually waste away. You may also notice diarrhea.

This is because the accumulation of net wrap causes a blockage. If the impaction is severe, bowel movements can cease and cause a bloating issue.

The symptoms of net wrap consumption are similar to other cattle illnesses. It makes it hard to tell whether your cattle have consumed hay net wrap or are suffering from a real disease.

Do all forms of twine and net wrap cause a problem?

The majority of baling strings will not break down in cattle rumens. Plastic twine and plastic net wrap cannot be digested by cattle.

Some producers assume that biodegradable twine can be digested, but this isn't true. Biodegradable twine needs sunlight in order to break down. There is no sunlight in the rumen so the twine cannot be digested.

Sisal twine is the exception. It can gradually be broken down in the rumen but will take longer than hay or other roughage.

What can producers do to protect their cattle?

Although this isn't a particularly common health concern, it can have severe consequences for cattle that have ingested significant amounts of net wrap.

The best thing that you can do to save your cattle from the negative effects of eating net wrap is to simply remove it from the bales before feeding. Keep a box cutter or pocketknife handy for this.

It may be inconvenient, but it can improve the health of your cattle in the long run. If you decide to take the risk of not removing net wrap before feeding then you should at the least pick up the wrap and throw it away after the bale has been eaten.

Caitlyn Andrews
Caitlyn Andrews


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