Dec 7, 2018

Straw vs. Hay

Straw and hay are often used interchangeably, and it is easy to see why. They are both dry, grassy, and easy to find on farms in the fall, but the two terms actual describe different materials, and once you know what to look for, it is easy to tell the difference between them.

Hay refers to grasses and some legumes such as alfalfa that are grown for use as animal feed. The full plant is harvested—including the heads, leaves, and stems, then dried, and typically stored in bales. Hay is what livestock like cattle eat when there is not enough pasture available, or when the weather gets too cold to graze. The baled hay most non-farmers are familiar with is dry and yellow, but high-quality hay has more of a greenish hue.

Straw is the byproduct of crops, not the crop itself. When a plant, such as wheat or barley, has been stripped of its seeds or grains, the stalk is sometimes saved and dried to make straw. This part of the plant is lacking in nutrients, which means it doesn't make great animal fodder. Farmers have found other uses for the material throughout history, such as to weave baskets, thatch roofs, and stuff mattresses.

Straw is easy to identify, such as if it is being used in a way that would be wasteful if it were food. Every hayride you have ever been on was most likely a straw-ride.

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