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Sampling and Bale Packaging


Modern U.S. gins press cotton lint into uniform, densely packed bales of cotton which should conform to the weight and dimension definition of a gin universal density bale. Sampling of bales for grading is aided by using “cookie cutters,” sharp knives permanently attached to bale press “platens.” The cookie cutters do their job while the bale is being compressed. After a bale is “tied out” and released from the press, the pre-cut slices of lint from the round sides of each bale are drawn and pulled from the bale. Then a barcoded USDA-AMS Cotton Identification Coupon is removed from the Permanent Bale Identification (PBI) tag and placed between the inside surfaces of the removed slices. Thus, the joined lint slices form the “official sample.” Next, the sample with the associated coupon is placed in a bag with other samples. Bagged samples are collected and sent to USDA-AMS Cotton Classing Offices where each sample is conditioned before grading.

Each PBI tag with its matching sample coupon contains a unique bar coded and eye readable number. Gin assigned PBI bale tags are permanently attached to the outside of a bale’s bagging prior to storage. Unique PBI numbers provide a method for tracing bale ownership and classing data for each bale of cotton.

The next step is to “stuff” each bale into bagging sized to fit the bale. Bales are then weighed and a “net weight” is assigned to the bale. The net weight of the bale is determined by subtracting the tare weight, the combined weight of the bagging and ties, from the gross weight of the bale. By using packaging materials and techniques that fully cover cotton bales, the lint is protected from damage
and contamination as cotton moves through the warehousing and transportation system. Bales are wrapped in “approved” woven polypropylene, woven polyethylene, polyethylene film, burlap (jute) or cotton bagging. Bale ties are made of steel wire, steel strapping or plastic strapping.

In 1968, the U.S. cotton industry established a bale packaging committee to work with USDA to improve the packaging, appearance and condition of U.S. cotton bales. The outgrowth of that commitment to bale packaging was the formation of the Joint Cotton Industry Bale Packaging Committee (JCIBPC). The committee’s voting members consist of representatives from the raw cotton segment (producer-ginner, warehouse-compress, merchant and cooperative) and the mill segment (yarn and textile manufacturer). Non-voting advisors come from the National Cotton Council, Cotton Incorporated, several USDA agencies and other interested parties. The JCIBPC publishes the Specifications for Cotton Bale Packaging Materials, which are reviewed annually by both the committee and the USDA. These specifications become the guidelines for manufacturers of bale packaging materials and provide an avenue for improving packaging materials.

Bale Characteristics

Gin Universal DensityGin Standard Density
Length, inches (mm)54-55 (1400)55 (1400)
Width, inches (mm)20-21 (535)21 (535)
Thickness at bale tie, inches (mm)28 (710)31 (790)
Average Bale Bulge Thickness< 33 (840)N/A 
Density, pounds per cubic feet (kg/m3)28 (450) - min.23 to 28 (369 to 427)

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