Three different methods of wrapping and storing alfalfa hay in round bales were used to explore possible differences in preferential consumption. Large round bales of alfalfa were stored indoors, outdoors, with conventional net wrap, or outdoors with a new wrap that incorporates a breathable film. This film is intended to better conserve hay in round bales by shedding precipitation but allowing internal moisture to exit the bale through microscopic pores. Five separate preference trials, each of 18-d duration with six 3-d periods, were conducted using beef cattle. In all 5 preference trials, hay wrapped with breathable film was preferred over net-wrapped hay stored outdoors. For instance, in trial 1 hay wrapped with breathable film was preferred over net-wrapped hay stored outdoors in all 18 pairings (P < 0.001), and consumption of the film-wrapped hay was significantly greater (78 vs. 28 % of total hay offered, P=0.05). Results suggest that when bales are stored outdoors, cattle will strongly prefer to consume hay from bales wrapped with breathable film compared with net-wrapped bales. Although in 2 trials hay wrapped with breathable film was preferred over hay stored indoors, when considered across all trials and pairings, preference of hay from breathable film bales did not differ from stored indoors. ~ Shinners et al., 2013. Professional Animal Scientist.
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