Hey there. Lots of people confuse hay and straw, using the two terms interchangeably. But they are two very different things, and they are not used the same ways. Both hay and straw are baled, but the similarities sort of stop right there.
|Nice, grassy hay|
Hay is produced from alfalfa, brome, orchard, timothy, and other grasses. It may contain some clover or even a little rye. Hay is cut when the grasses are still green and soft. It usually has lots of seeds. Horses, goats, cattle, sheep, and other farm animals eat hay for forage. It’s fragrant and yummy and filled with minerals and vitamins that make livestock thrive.
|Straw, not hay (See sneaker for scale.)|
Straw, on the other hand, is stalky and twiggy and hollow and coarse. It’s chaff, basically a by-product of actual crops (like barley, oats, or wheat) and has little or no nutritional value.
Still, straw is handy for lots of purposes. Use it to bed a foaling stall. Mulch a garden with it. Cover your freshly seeded lawn with it to protect emerging baby grass. Add it to your Halloween or harvest festival display. Pack it into your horse- or tractor-drawn wagon for tourists to sit upon. Stuff a scarecrow with it. Pile it up for winter insulation. Go ahead and weave a basket or make a porch chair with it, if you want.
But please don’t try to feed that straw to my horse … or yours.
Photos by The Mane Point: A Haven for Horse Lovers
All rights reserved.