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Does Bale Wrap Affect Palatability?

10 June 2014

Cattle prefer hay wrapped in breathable film over net-wrapped, according to a study in The Professional Animal Scientist.

Three different methods of wrapping and storing alfalfa hay in round bales were used to explore possible differences in preferential consumption.

In a project led by University of Wisconsin researcher Dr K J Shinners, large round bales of alfalfa were stored indoors, outdoors with conventional net wrap or outdoors with a new wrap that incorporates a breathable film.

The study said that the film is intended to better conserve hay in round bales by shedding precipitation but allowing internal moisture to exit the bale through microscopic pores. Five separate preference trials, each of 18-day duration with six 3-day periods, were conducted using beef cattle.

• In all five preference trials, hay wrapped with breathable film was preferred over net-wrapped hay stored outdoors.

• For instance, in trial 1 hay wrapped with breathable film was preferred over net-wrapped hay stored outdoors in all 18 pairings, and consumption of the film-wrapped hay was significantly greater (78 per cent vs. 28 per cent of total hay offered).

Results suggest that when bales are stored outdoors, cattle will strongly prefer to consume hay from bales wrapped with breathable film compared with net-wrapped bales. Although in two trials, hay wrapped with breathable film was preferred over hay stored indoors.

When considered across all trials and pairings, preference of hay from breathable film bales did not differ from that stored indoors.

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