City Slickers Want to Know: What’s the Difference Between Hay and Straw?
I want to tell you that the farmers in this area are a very polite group. I have no idea if they fall on the ground laughing once I leave from my visit with them, but they are extremely courteous to me and answer all my questions. I really believe that they enjoy the fact that someone who has such limited experience with food production is interested enough to be asking these silly questions.
So when I heard one guy laugh how one woman visiting his farm asked about feeding his cows straw, I knew I had a new series I could write…..what we city slickers just don’t know…yet. Time to head back to school so to speak.
So what IS the difference between hay and straw? It all looks like golden rolls or blocks of the same thing to me as I drive by the fields!
Hay bales are a food source. That is the first and perhaps most important difference. Hay is actually a plant that is cut when it is alive and full of grain. The purpose of the hay is to feed animals.
Straw, on the other hand, is simply the stalks of standing plants that contain no grain. The grain is harvested from the plants by a machine that cuts it off of the stalk. The grain is then removed from the field and the stalks are left to die, standing. Once they are totally dead and mostly devoid of moisture, they are cut, raked, and baled. The baled straw has multiple uses. It can be used as animal bedding, erosion control, home building, and more. One thing it is not used for is food.