March 2017
Farm & Field

The Knotty Truth Behind Baling Twine

Figure 2. UV stabilizer and colorants are added.

 

Long before you enter your local Quality Co-op store in the early spring to purchase your baling twine needs, the process had to be started months beforehand. Buyers have to purchase the products months in advance to fulfill your needs; manufacturers have to forecast the resin markets and purchase raw goods cheaply to be competitive in the market. Then production has to happen in time to fill the orders to meet the needs for farmers across the country. This is just a small step in the process to bale the hay you produce for your animals’ needs.

There are three major types of baling products available at your local Quality Co-op: poly twine, sisal twine and net wrap. This month we will discuss the process to get the poly twine to you, from the raw resin brought to the plant to the finished product in your hands. You just might be surprised at how long a process it really is.

We are by no means journalists, but please give us the opportunity to fill you in on a very interesting trip we had to Clearfield, Utah, and a tour of the Tytan plant that produces approximately 35 percent of the poly product for the North American market. This plant runs year-round on 24-hour shifts to provide the products for their customers’ needs with the highest-quality standards that are being checked continuously.

 
 
 

Top to bottom, Figure 3. On the extrusion line, resin is pressed into sheet. Figure 5. Sheet is slit to specification. Figure 6. Poly twine is plied together and rolled onto spools.

The process begins with the purchase and shipment of raw 100 percent virgin polypropylene pellets from Texas and brought to Clearfield by railcar (Fig. 1). These railcars hold approximately 190,000 pounds of product. The plant can process a railcar full of resin every two days. The two main twines produced are monofilament and slit film for the twine production.

The process starts by melting each raw resin pellet into a liquid state. A UV stabilizer and colorants are added to the run (Fig. 2), based on production specifications. It then moves to an extruding line where it is pressed into sheets of colored polypropylene ranging from widths of 12 to 48 inches (Fig. 3 and 4). Once cooled, it is slit (Fig. 5), depending on the finished product’s specifications. At this point, it is twisted and plied together and rolled onto spools (Fig. 6) to continue on to the next step. The plant pulls multiple samples from every batch of product run to test the tensile strength requirements printed on the labels (Fig. 7). After this step, it is sent to a set of machines that winds it onto the bobbin (Fig. 8) you use on your baling equipment. Each bobbin takes about three hours to produce. The extruded film process is the primary method of manufacturing used in the production of baling twine. A variety of colors are available; however, the most common throughout the country are burnt orange, yellow, black and blue.

The process for the monofilament twine is much the same, but, instead of sheets of plastic, it is made into a continuous filament. The monofilament is mainly used in round-bale twine production. We were able to see the machine that produced the monofilament in operation; it was amazing to watch. The liquid resin is sent through a die that makes thousands of threads at one time. The poly resin was stretched as it cooled in a water bath and wrapped on large spools and tested thoroughly to meet the tensile-strength specs. This process provides the ability to offer twines of multicolored strands twisted together such as red and white or black and yellow. Any color combination can be produced in the monofilament or tape products as long as the minimum purchase requirements are fulfilled.

Most domestic manufacturers prefer to produce the heavier twines as more pounds per hour ran off the machines, meaning higher revenues and lower costs. Most of the thin twines such as 20/110 for round bales are made in Portugal because it is more cost effective to ship the lighter product over greater distance.

The products made at the Tytan plant are of the highest quality due to the stringent quality standards each batch must meet. We were very impressed by this production facility and are happy to bring the Tytan family of products to you as a Co-op patron.

Next month look for more knotty news on the Tytan net wrap and sisal baling products for your future needs.

 

Tim Lucier and Robert Hardy are sales reps for AFC Farm & Home division.