Hay vs. Straw

Before I had animals I had no idea what the difference between hay and straw was. I honestly thought the words were interchangeable. Hay. Straw. Whatever! But there is a difference. A key difference. So, for those of you too embarrassed to ask the question… here it is, a simple breakdown of the difference between hay and straw…

baled hay inside barn
baled hay inside barn

This is hay. Fresh hay is greenish. This is what you feed the animals. You’d give this to the animals in place of letting them graze, like in the winter time when the grass isn’t growing. It costs about $3 per square bale of hay.


This is straw. It’s a yellowish color. This is used as bedding for the animals. It also costs about $3 per square bale, depending on where you get it of course. (We got some old straw for like $1 per bale a while back, so it can be pretty inexpensive to buy.)

Sometimes I forget which is used for what, and then I remind myself of the childhood saying, “Hay is for horses”! And then I remember that hay is for feed.

So, there you have it. And you don’t even have to feel silly asking anybody!! Now you know.

4 thoughts on “Hay vs. Straw”

  1. OK I think I’ve heard it all now. The only reason I know the difference between straw and hay is that we have almost every gardening book ever printed. You don’t put hay in the garden for mulch unless you want a healthy crop of weeds. Straw is what remains after the grain has been removed (the seed). There are lots of different types of straw too. Of course as many different kinds at there are different grains. (wheat, rye, oat etc, etc.). Hay on the other hand is just grass with all the seeds… the good part for the animals who get protein from that part of the plant. Alfalfa hay seems to be the best for that, or there’s clover and many other types depending on what the predominate crop is in the hayfield.

    Old hay can be used as bedding, but you must be careful the animals don’t eat moldy hay or they could get sick. Usually you can put old hay into the compost, but make sure that it is well cooked to kill all the seed or you’ll again get a huge crop of weeds in the garden. You can use mulch hay for over grass seed when you are planting grass too to help keep the seed in place and will add a few weeds in there too :).

    Actually eggs without a rooster are better… not fertilized, so don’t have blood spots. 🙂 Then again if you want babies… guess you need him after all.

  2. I think that hay also has the entire stalk present but straw had the seeds removed…for a future planting. Hay can also be of different quality alfalfa is better than fescue for example. There is so much to learn with animals. I find that the fun of it.

  3. Before we moved to the homestead I didn’t know any different, either. We’ve had goats for about 8 months now and I still have to remind my mom which is which (she lives with us and helps our middle son take care of the goats –one of them is hers). Now…next question…”how do you get eggs without a rooster?” Yup…been asked that one! 😉


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