Plastic Concerns


   Ever since plastic twine, net wrap, and plain black plastic has been used in hay production I’ve been concerned about the disposal method of the plastic. I’ve made several inquiries about recycling it but the dirty hay material left on the plastic appears to be a problem and no one thinks it can be recycled.
   I saw a report recently from North Dakota State that looked at the health impact of cattle eating large amounts of net wrap or sisal twine. They found that three different types of net wrap and biodegradable twine did not disappear in the rumen after 14 days. Sixty percent of the sisal twine did disappear in the same time frame.
   The bales with the plastic were either ground or shredded and the dry matter disappearance was measured in the rumen of Holstein steers. No problems were detected during the two-week trial but if enough plastic is consumed over a longer period of time it could become a problem. Maybe more of a plastic threat is the shopping bags that get stuck in your barbed wire fence that curious cattle eat.
   In the meantime, maybe stores that sell twine or wrap could set up bins so farmers can bring the used plastic back to the source. Maybe there could even be drop-off containers at feed stores, coffee shops or sale barns where farmers could unload the plastic they accumulate in their truck. This should be better than having it litter the road ditches. Maybe there could even be a friendly competition to see who could gather the most plastic. ∆
   ELDON COLE: Extension Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri
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