How Can You Differentiate Straw From Hay?

Having been a part of the farming and livestock industry, you must have come across both hay and straw bales. While there are some very evident differences between straw and hay, one can seldom tell either apart just by looking at it. This can not only confuse you while purchasing either one of them but also hamper your livestock’s eating, sleeping, and overall living conditions. 

This is when understanding what differentiates both products becomes important. If you are someone who is tasked to buy hay for your livestock but cannot tell either apart, this article is perfect for you. Here you will learn what each is and how you can differentiate between the two. 

What Do You Understand By Straw And Hay? 

Straw is plant material that gets left over after grains like barley and wheat are harvested. The stems that are omitted from the grains eventually become straws. However, you should know that in such crops, most of the nutrient lies with the grains. 

This renders the stems or straw very low quality and not at all helpful for animals. Nevertheless, it is still sometimes used as fodder for when there is nothing else to feed, but more commonly, it is used for other purposes and is considered to be a waste product.

On the other hand, when you talk about producing hay, it is done with the sole purpose of using it as livestock feed. Hay is mainly derived from plants that are healthy and nutritious, further passing on the same quality to it. 

These are grown on perennial crops and on land that is not suitable for grain production. The biggest difference between both lies in the production process. Hay gets harvested before the plants start forming seeds and are only growing leaves. These leaves are full of healthy nutrients and can be quite easy for animals to consume and digest. 

Uses of Hay and Straw

As is evident by the nutrient content of hay, it is mainly grown as fodder for cattle and horses. The easily digestible quality and high nutrients make it perfect for livestock of all kinds. On the contrary, while straws are not the ideal fodder for livestock, they have several other uses in the same industry. 

The most common use of straw is for making beds for animals or stuffing a mattress. It can also be used to make other commodities like a basket or straw hat. More recently, people have started using it as a fuel source for bioenergy. Its low pollution rate makes it quite a good fuel to be used. It is also a great building material and quite cheap to use. 

Where to Buy It?

It is likely that you find hay bales where you find straw bales. However, if it is still very confusing for you, you can choose a farm that specializes in either. This way, there is no chance that you pay for hay and get straw instead.