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Baling twine

From: Carol

I am a new reader and love your site! I will definitely support your services with a donation. Our barn has round bales of hay delivered to the pastures for the horses to have some foraage when grass is sparse. The round bales are delivered into each field wrapped in bailing twine to keep the bales intact. I have seen a horse tripped up in the twine and I have seen about twenty feet of twine stretched across a field still attatched to the bale. I have expressed my concerns to the barn manager and she has told me that the barn had done this for three years in a row with no known incidents. Should I be concerned?


Hi Carol! Thanks for the kind words; I'm glad to know that you're enjoying HORSE-SENSE.

YES, you should be concerned, and I'm delighted that you asked this question. Many horse-owners and indeed many barn-owners are relatively new to horses, farming, and safe farm management practices. "We've done this for several years without a problem" is not a good argument in favour of unsafe practices at the farm, in the home, and anywhere else. Of course it's POSSIBLE to get away with dangerous behaviour such as leaving your small children home alone, allowing your dog to run free on the road, or leaving baling twine lying about in the fields and barns... but all of these actions are likely to lead to terrible accidents. People often change their ways after they are forced to confront the fact that unsafe practices can lead to a major accident, a serious injury, or death, but making prevention part of the daily routine is infinitely preferable to making tragedy and regret part of your life forever. There are such things as unavoidable accidents, so it makes good sense for us to avoid and prevent those that are easily avoidable and preventable. In the case of baling twine, all that's required is some good sense and a little bit of necessary care - and unlike babysitters and dog fences, the prevention of baling-twine disasters is ABSOLUTELY FREE.

Baling twine is very useful when it's tying up hay bales - and when it's employed for any of the other thousand-and-one uses that farm-owners are likely to have for it. But it's also one of the most dangerous items on any farm, and should not be left lying around under ANY circumstances. Pony Clubbers and 4-H members are taught this from day ONE. Loose twine in stalls, barns, fields, or indeed anywhere on the property is a "red light" sign of bad management - like old machinery in horse pastures or barbed wire fences around horse pastures. At well-run boarding stables, horse farms, and other livestock operations, the rule is that baling twine should be disposed of immediately it's removed from the bale. This can mean putting into a designated storage box or barrel from which pieces may be removed as needed, or it can mean putting it into a trash barrel along with other refuse and debris.

Keeping horses safe is the most fundamental concept in horse management. Baling twine, whether it's a couple of short lengths from a small square bale or a large round bale, can be as great a health hazard as loose wire in the pasture or nails protruding from fence or stall boards. Anyone involved in horse rescue can probably give you terrifying accounts of what baling twine can to do a horse. There was a recent abuse case in Kentucky - no more than a year ago, if I remember correctly, in which two of the mares were so tangled in baling twine that they were unable to move.

Twine should not be part of a horse's environment. It can cause accidents and injuries, including very severe injuries that require medical or even surgical treatment, including amputation. It's not difficult for a horse to become tangled in or caught by loose twine in the field. Horses tend to panic when they perceive themselves to be caught like this, and just as a horse caught in wire can fight the wire until it become severely injured or killed, a horse caught in twine can fight just as hard, with similar results. It doesn't require much of a struggle to tighten a piece of twine around a horse's leg, and the resulting rope burns, deep cuts, and impaired (or shut-off) circulation can end a horse's career - or its life.

Twine should also not be part of a horse's diet, but every year, there are cases of choke and cases of colic that result from a horse's eating baling twine. Twine that has been wrapped around, and is mixed in with, the horses' hay is likely to be consumed with the hay. The hungrier the horse and the more competitive the eating situation, the more likely this is to happen. Even the people who put out hay for wild horses are told NOT just to push the bales off the truck or trailer, but to cut the twine, spread out the hay, and take ALL the twine away when they leave. But even a well-fed horse with only one or two pasture companions, or a horse in a stall, may ingest some twine if it's included with the hay ration. Foals may eat it out of curiosity, and because it smells and tastes rather like hay. Horses are very curious animals, and don't have any built-in warning device that would tell them "Don't eat this, it could hurt you." Twine can create a need for surgery even years later - some enteroliths (intestinal stones that form - like pearls - around a foreign object) have been found to contain bits of twine at their centers.

Even if your barn managers can't be made to understand the dangers that baling twine presents to horses, perhaps you can make some headway by pointing out the dangers it presents to machinery!

What is done with the manure at this barn? If it's spread on the property, then their own machinery is at risk - lurking pieces of baling twine can (and often do) become entangled in the moving parts of a manure spreader. Sometimes the problem can be dealt with on site by the operator, sometimes it can't - but in every case, it takes up time that could be spent doing something else (like picking up and disposing of all those pieces of twine).

If the manure is sold or given to landscapers - always a popular solution for a horse barn with a large manure pile - then the landscapers' requirements should be respected. I know of NO landscapers who will accept manure if they know that the pile also contains baling twine. The processing machinery used by landscapers making compost is surprisingly intricate, and when twine tangles in that machinery, it can cause damage. At the very least, a tangle that fouls the machinery will bring the processing to a halt whilst some person has to spend time and effort removing the twine by hand. If this happens, it will most certainly put that facility on the landscaper's... ah... "manure list" in one sense, but the barn manager will need to find somewhere else to dispose of the actual manure from then on.

Does the barn manager - or the farm owner - have children? Do children visit the facility? Baling twine accidents aren't limited to horses and machinery - every year, some children are injured or killed in accidents involving baling twine. If you're interested, you might want to check the National Agriculture Safety Database - I believe it includes records of farm accidents and their causes.

Incidentally, baling twine accidents aren't just for horses and machinery - every year, some children are injured or killed in accidents involving baling twine. If you're interested, you might want to check the National Agriculture Safety Database - I believe it includes records of farm accidents and their causes.

The bottom line emotionally is that beloved horses and children can't be replaced. The bottom line financially is that vet calls are expensive, medical care and surgeries are very expensive, and repairing farm machinery - yours or someone else's - can be prohibitively expensive.

Whether your barn's hay is tied with poly, sisal, or hemp twine, ALL loose baling twine in fields and stalls is dangerous and should be stored or disposed of properly, for everyone's sake.


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