Ask an Agronomist
Is It OK to Spread Ground-up Mesh on Pastures?
Feb 13, 2012
Question: Is It OK to Spread Ground-up Mesh on Pastures?
Answer: Recently, we heard from a farmer who was concerned about round hay bales that some folks choose to grind up for their cattle with the plastic mesh still on the bales.
His questions: Will this turn the fields into a type of land fill, as the manure is spread on the fields? Will this plastic ever break down?
The farmer contacted the retailer who makes the mesh. Here’s what he learned and then shared with Farm Journal:
"The company said that in some cases cows have literally starved to death from the plastic getting wrapped up inside the animal. The mesh is not degradable and what does pass should not be hauled on to the fields. It is a very wide-spread practice. You can't hardly see the plastic once it's been ground, so the practice goes on in order to hold the bale together as it is put into the tub grinder and no one wants to take the time to remove the mesh. Our suspicion was correct, but until someone sees an adverse affect, or has a moral conviction, the practice will continue, but not on my farm."
Bottom line: If you have been spreading ground-up plastic mesh from hay bales on your fields, you might want to reconsider this practice. It sounds like a less-than-healthy option for hay-fed cattle or grazing cattle, and it also does not provide any benefit to soil structure. Please do yourself, your cattle and the environment a favor and remove the mesh from bales prior to feeding them.