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2019 Beef and Sheep Report Cover

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Remove Net Wrap From Forages

Heifer eating net wrap

Producers should remove net wrap before feeding forages to their livestock. Cattle may eat the net wrap if it’s not removed. Eating excessive amounts of net wrap can result in livestock illness and deaths.

A study NDSU Animal Sciences Department researchers conducted on several hay bale-binding materials found that the three types of net wrapping and the biodegradable twine they evaluated had not disappeared 14 days after cattle ate hay with those wrappings. However, more than 70 percent of the sisal twine they evaluated did disappear during that 14-day period.

“Because none of the plastic products disappeared during our study interval, the potential exists for these products to build up in the rumen through time and possibly lead to associated complications,” says NDSU Extension Service beef cattle specialist Carl Dahlen, one of the researchers. “Whether complications occur as a result of net wrap consumed likely is based on the volume of the product consumed and the ability of the plastic particles to move through the digestive tract.”

For example, a recent case submitted to the NDSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory was diagnosed as acute tympany (bloat) associated with excessive net wrap ingestions.

Net wrap found in rumen

In a case from South Dakota, a calf that was just a month old, was found with a large net wrap obstruction. The calf was seen chewing on baling twine, then later regurgitating milk after nursing. The calf was taken to Iowa State University. An exam with a scope revealed the obstruction in the calf’s esophagus was a section of net wrap and food particles.

“Removing net wrap can be difficult and time-consuming, but with bred heifers selling for $3,200 and 500-pound steers selling for $1,500, removing net wrap before processing and feeding forages is worth the effort,” says Lisa Pederson, Extension beef quality assurance specialist.

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