This time of year, you may see hundreds of marshmallow-looking things in the fields. Of course I know that you know they are not actually marshmallows (at least I hope so), but do you know what they are and why they look like that?
If you’ve grown up in a rural area, I’m sure that you have seen hay bales all of your life: round bales, small square bales, big square bales; wrapped in baler twine, net wrap, or plastic. But what is the reasoning for wrapping these in plastic?
Lack of Storage
One of the simplest answers is that not everybody has the luxury of having enough dry covered space to store uncovered hay bales. So in order for these bales to last the tests of mother nature, wrapping them in plastic is the best option out there. Also when done correctly, the bales can be stacked on top of one another to utilize the space to its maximum capability.
Hay (or any forage) is at it’s highest quality the moment it is cut. It will lose quality constantly after that. How much quality is lost, now relies on the farmer.
The bales wrapped in plastic allow very little oxygen in or out, so this allows for less change within the bale: air quality, heat changes/damage, moisture fluctuation. Also, the protein and palatability (how good it tastes/feels to eat) are much higher when compared with your standard dry hay bale.
You like to eat your food at a certain temperature right? Maybe you also like a certain amount of moisture in your food? We’ve all had the thanksgiving turkey that needs to come with a bowl of gravy on the side just to swallow it.
Well, this isn’t exactly the whole reasoning for keeping a certain moisture level in your hay/baleage, but it is part of it.
A high moisture hay bale (40%-65% moisture) is wrapped in plastic where it then begins a fermentation process much like a silage. This fermentation helps with gut health of the animal as well as keeping the nutritional values of the hay/baleage. If the moisture level is below that 40% mark it is much more difficult for the baleage to ferment.
Now you can impress your friends with knowing what those white blobs in the fields are and why they aren’t just wrapped in baler twine or netting like a normal hay bale… Or maybe your friends don’t really care to have that useless knowledge in their head. Just depends on what kind of friends you have I guess…