Home / News / Bale wrapping material may ‘knot’ be what you think

Bale wrapping material may ‘knot’ be what you think

May 10, 2023May 10, 2023

Twine is available in polypropylene plastic, solar degradable plastic and sisal. Plastic twine does not deteriorate as quickly as sisal twine.

When it's haying time, everything can spiral out of control.

That field you thought needed a few more days before cutting instantly became a carpet of purple blooms.

Or the humidity is too high to bale, but within 15 minutes the leaves are falling off the stem.

And you can almost guarantee a rain shower will hover over your field sometime between mowing the hay and baling.

One aspect you can control is how you wrap the bales. Regardless whether you put up small or large, round or square bales, you have many options when choosing bale wrapping material.

Twine or netwrap? Poly or sisal? Blue or pink? Read ahead to discover what bale wrapping material best suits your operation.

Father and son Jerald and J.J. Pritchett of O’Neill, Nebraska know baling like the back of their hand, having done custom haying for decades.


Baling twine is a universal industry standard, used for all shapes and sizes of bales. There are three main types of baling twine:

• Plastic (poly): polypropylene plastic will not deteriorate; high tensile strength

• Solar degradable plastic: UV stabilized polypropylene plastic breaks down over time with exposure to sunlight; has high tensile strength

• Sisal: plant-based fibers biodegrade and are edible; does not last very long holding bales together

Which you choose largely depends on how long you plan to store the bales. Pritchett Twine and Netwrap LLC sells all three types of baling twine, as well as their trademark netwrap and other haying supplies. Jerald and his son J.J. own and operate Pritchett Twine and Netwrap with business locations in O’Neill, Nebraska, Scottland, South Dakota, and Hillsboro, Kansas.

The most common twine that Pritchett sells to producers in Nebraska are plastic and solar degradable. Both are similar in terms of strength, but solar has been UV stabilized to break down in the sunlight. When hidden out of sunlight in a manure pile, solar degradable twine would act just like plastic and break down slowly, as J.J. Pritchett said.

From his experience, solar degradable twine typically starts breaking down around nine months and disappears within a two-year period.

"You can literally pull it apart. It's basically an empty shell when broken down and will continue breaking down until it's gone," said Pritchett.

Sisal twine lasts around 60-90 days, depending on the weather, Pritchett said. Their sisal twine derives from the agave plant and is manufactured in Brazil. The downfall is it is expensive compared to solar or plastic twines. It also breaks down very fast.

"You wouldn't want to use it if you carry over your crop multiple years," said Pritchett.

Netwrap protects bales from the elements to better preserve the forage for long-term storage.

When selecting twine, pay attention to the two numbers on the package. For example, Pritchett's most sought-after large round baler twine in Nebraska is the 20,000—110. The first number represents the length of the twine in feet, whereas the second number is tensile strength.

For round balers, he recommends twine or netwrap, but it all determines what best fits your operation.

Large square bales require higher knot strength because of their higher packing density. Pritchett carries plastic twine with 350 up to 750 knot strength for large square bales. Large square bales also require a higher tensile strength, which refers to the kilogram force the unknotted twine can withstand before breaking.

Small square baling twine is sold according to knot strength; Pritchett offers plastic twine with knot strength of 130 up to 240 knot strength.

Other terms you may see when comparing baling twine options are "runnage" and "fillibration," as found in an AGCO Parts Baler Twine User Guide copyright 2016. Runnage is the basic composition of poly twine; the strands of poly tape are thin yet wide. The thickness and width of this tape influences twine flexibility and knot formation.

If your twine has ever unraveled, you have seen the byproduct of fillibration. This is the process whereby poly strands are split lengthwise, then the separate strands are twisted together to form the string of twine. Good fillibration results in better knotting success.

Twine comes in a variety of colors, allowing you to color-code your bales. Some people find it helpful to distinguish fields or cuttings with different twine colors. You may also select a certain color to signify quality or moisture levels if they varied significantly within the same field.

Using a combination of twine colors simultaneously can help identify your bales. Pritchett said some producers use three twine colors, or two colors with a distinct pattern, such as two yellow strands with one pink on the outside. Doing so may be a built-in security system if the bales are stolen or if you sell hay.

"You’re protecting yourself, because if someone questions your product you can say ‘all that hay you’re saying is bad has blue string, and I have one pink string in mine.’ You can verify it's your hay," said Pritchett.

Before purchasing twine, inspect the spool for good conformity, a uniform twist and smooth runnage, as stated in the AGCO User's Guide. The center should be round to consistently feed the twine through the bale's twine guides and tensioners. Maintaining this cylindrical shape during storage is also necessary. Avoid crushing or damaging the twine in any way. Even wrapping it with a bungee cord may inadvertently distort its shape.

You will know if your knot strength is insufficient when it repeatedly breaks or the knots come undone.

Producers can easily remove netwrap from bales with the Hayknife sold by Pritchett Twine and Netwrap, LLC. The 30-inch long handle and folding razor blade makes cutting and removing netwrap safer.

High-density balers require thicker twine of higher knot-strength. Consider the varying thicknesses and twists of different twine bundles when changing twine in your baler; double-check the baler's twine guides and tensioners each time.

If in doubt, you can reach out to Pritchett with questions. With almost 30 years of firsthand experience baling everything from alfalfa to Sudangrass to cornstalks, he can help diagnose problems.

"I enjoy visiting with different customers about their balers and helping them get their balers set right to make sure everything works perfectly," he said.


Netwrap is fairly new in the baling industry. Pritchett remembers when they bought their first baler with netwrapping capabilities in 1998.

The trend caught on quickly. According to a report published by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), 120 million bales are consumed nationally each year. They estimate 5.4 billion feet of netwrap is used annually. This would be equivalent to wrapping the Earth in netwrap 41 times.

Netwrap can be used to bale just about anything, including alfalfa, prairie hay, Sudangrass, cornstalks, bean stubble, wheat straw and pine straw, just to name a few.

Rolls of netwrap are sold by size. Pritchett offers widths from 48 to 67 inches and lengths up to 9,840 feet. Seeking a more durable and stronger netwrap, they developed their own Pritchett® Netwrap product.

Pritchett said they were tired of light, fluffy netwrap. By adding weight to the plastic, Pritchett® Netwrap flows better through the baler, resists tearing and lays flatter on the bales.

The estimated cost to netwrap a bale is $1.30. Twine costs about $1.12 per bale, said Pritchett.

Speed of baling is a major advantage of netwrapping bales. Twine-tying a bale takes approximately 30 to 60 seconds, depending on how much twine is used. Wrapping four rounds of netwrap around a cornstalk bale can be done in 8 seconds. You have a lot less wear and tear on your equipment because it's not sitting there spinning for a long time, and you can get more bales baled in a day.

"By the time you stop and put your tractor in reverse, it's already telling you to dump that bale," Pritchett said.

With its water-shedding ability, netwrap protects its contents against the elements. Less deterioration and shrinkage during storage helps to maintain the nutritional quality of the forage.

Proper Removal of Bale Wrapping Materials

Because the majority of netwrap is fabricated from polyethylene plastic, it is highly recommended that netwrap is removed from the bale prior to grinding or feeding. This is true of plastic and solar twine, as well. Plastic is not digested by rumen microbes, as proven by a series of experiments at North Dakota State University in 2014. However, sisal twine was 70% digested within 14 days.

Accumulation of bale wrapping material in the digestive system over time can reduce consumption. Essentially, the animal will waste away as the wad of plastic prevents it from eating adequate amounts.

An assessment in conjunction with the previously-mentioned SARE project surveyed veterinarians about netwrap accumulation found at necropsy. The highest incidence is in mature cows and yearling / fed cattle but is also frequently found in dairy cows and sheep.

It is the producer's responsibility to remove bale wrapping materials prior to feeding forage. Pritchett compared a bale to a loaf of bread.

"When you make your child a sandwich, you take the bread out of the plastic. You don't cut up the plastic with the bread," he said. The twine or netwrap is just the packaging on the outside of the bale and should be removed.

To help you easily take off netwrap or twine from the bale, Pritchett sells a Hayknife. It features a 30-inch handle with a folding razor blade and hook to help producers both cut and remove netwrap. The Hayknife is available in yellow, pink and blue.

They have sold over 100,000 of these to farmers and factories alike; the latter utilizes the Hayknife to more safely cut bags of ingredients or other materials above a grinder. Instead of cutting a bag with a regular utility blade, they have a reach with an extra 30 inches, said J.J.

In the future, producers may have more options for netwrapping materials. Research for biodegradable netwrap is ongoing, but factors such as finances and manufacturing are blocking any headway.

There are many factors involved in feeding livestock, especially when it comes to baling. What you select for bale wrapping material is dependent upon the type of forage or other material you are baling, as well as your storage plans. Whether you decide to use twine or netwrap, just remember to choose wisely.

Reporter Kristen Sindelar has loved agriculture her entire life, coming from a diversified farm with three generations working side-by-side in northeastern Nebraska. Reach her at [email protected].

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Agriculture Reporter

Reporter Kristen Sindelar has loved agriculture her entire life, coming from a diversified farm with three generations working side-by-side in northeastern Nebraska. Reach her at [email protected].

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Twine Netwrap Proper Removal of Bale Wrapping Materials