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Bale Wrap Goes High-Tech

Nothing can escape the rush to high-technology, including hay wrap for big round bales.

The most advanced hay wrap is a product called B-Wrap, developed by an Israeli company (Tama), distributed by a company with Brazilian roots (Ambraco), and marketed to farmers by John Deere dealers for use on their round balers.

“It’s the next evolutionary step in hay wrapping, after twine and traditional plastic net wrap,” explains Ron Amos of Ambraco. He says the high-tech B-Wrap can provide hay protection almost as good as indoor storage.

The B-Wrap system includes the use of about two wraps of John Deere’s traditional CoverEdge net wrap sandwiched around a single wrap of a structured composite material (SCM) that sheds water. The SCM has microscopic pores that let air and moisture escape from the inside so the bale can breathe. Tama engineers invested over 10 years developing the now-patented product specifically for wrapping hay.

The secret is in the breathing that happens through the B-Wrap pores, says Amos. Some farmers have used silage film to cover dry hay. While that film will shed water, it doesn’t allow air and moisture to escape, and that usually leads to moisture condensation inside the wrap, which leads to more hay spoilage.

There are two components of the B-Wrap – the net wrap and the SCM. But it all comes in one roll and is applied in one operation. A sensor in the baler cuts off one portion in the right spot every time. It requires a dealer-installed adaptation and works on all Deere 7, 8, and 9 series balers.

The Economics

On average, traditional net wrap costs about $2 per bale for two wraps around the bale. The B-Wrap is about $7 or $8, depending on the size of bale your machine makes, says Amos.

Given that comparison, Amos says the high-tech wrap probably isn’t for every bale of hay you make. For instance, any bales you can store inside won’t need it. And you may not want to use it on lower quality hay or first-cutting alfalfa that got rained on in the field. 

“But for that second and third cutting of perfect alfalfa that has to be stored outside - that’s where you would use B-Wrap,” he says. He says that a traditional twine- or net-wrapped bale can easily have 4 or 5 inches of spoilage around the outside if it sits out in rain and snow. Spoilage may go even deeper on the bottom. “A third or more of a bale can be lost to spoilage if it’s carried over the winter.”

Some farmers who use the high-tech wrap switch back and forth from one batch of hay to another, or even within a field, depending on the hay quality and inside/outside storage options. Most Deere B-Wrap balers can carry traditional net wrap at the same time, and switching takes less than five minutes.

Amos says the B-Wrap could be particularly useful on hay that may get carried over for a year or more. Tests have shown that bales are protected from rain spoilage for at least 18 months.

“I tell people that they probably won’t use it on every bale, but they’ll find a place where they are very happy to have it,” he says. “If you bale 4,000 bales a year, you may only need the B-Wrap on a few hundred of them.”

He also says it works particularly well on straw or stalk bales, which more easily absorb moisture and spoil. They can also be more difficult to hold together, and sometimes it takes four or five wraps of traditional net wrap for straw bales. “If you put five wraps around a bale, then the extra cost for B-Wrap is only $2 or $3 a bale.”

Farmers Reduce Hay Waste, Avoid Shed Expense

Steve Harre of Nashville, Illinois, uses B-Wrap on his John Deere baler for some dry hay, but he especially likes the high-tech, no-spoil wrap for wheat straw bales. “We use straw in our dairy rations, especially for the feedlot steers,” he says. “It costs about $7 for the wrap per bale, but we figure it cuts our hay waste to between 1% and 2%. When we take the B-Wrap off of a bale, it looks just like it did the day we baled it.”

Harre puts most of his alfalfa hay into plastic silage bags. He also bales about 1,200 bales a year of the wheat straw, putting about 500 of them in the B-Wrap. “We’ve left some of them outside for over a year and still had very little waste.” 

As for the extra cost, he says, “I look at it this way: You’re going to buy a storage shed one way or the other.” And as a bonus, he says the B-Wrap burns better than plastic when it’s time for disposal. 

Pinckneyville, Illinois, beef farmer Dennis Bruns used B-Wrap last year for the first time on a part of his clover hay. Some of them have been carried over for more than a year now, with no spoilage. He would rather use the high-tech wrap than build a new storage barn. “Barns cost you in taxes and insurance, and if one bale heats up and catches fire, you can lose it all.” 

Bruns points out one other advantage that wouldn’t immediately come to mind. Coyotes frequently dig into his outside bales in search of mice. Because the B-Wrap is a tougher material than traditional net wrap, the coyotes can’t so easily tear holes in it.    

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