The Difference Between Straw And Hay

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
Hay bales stacked in a field

Many people are unsure what the differences are between straw and hay. Even those from rural America can get the two confused. The following information should help you better understand how the two differ and how they are made. Understanding the differences will help you decide what you need to purchase depending on the purpose for which you are buying.


Straw, a byproduct left after the grain harvest, is yellow or golden. Straw is not typically used in livestock feed because it lacks nutrition, especially if it is dry. Farmers produce straw by cutting and forming hollow stocks.

Though straw is not really nutritious for animals, it does make light and fluffy bedding. Also, farmers use the product for mulch because it keeps the soil moist, preventing the top layer from getting dry. The straw also acts as a weed crusher and it will compost over time.


Hay is made up of legumes including alfalfa, clover or grasses such as Bermuda, oat and fescue. Hay has a green color and it is used to feed livestock. Depending on the nutritional needs of a certain animal, it may be fed a variety of different types of hay. As an example, a working horse will need a hay that contains high protein as well as carbohydrates.

Farmers harvest the plants while they are alive, often before the seed matures. The hay is then dried after harvest. This product is essential for animals like horses, goats, cows and sheep when they have no pasture in which to graze.

Producing hay can be a difficult task since farmers have to be particularly careful to monitor the moisture content. If there is a high moisture content inside a bale, mold can grow and the bale can catch fire. This combustion happens when heat inside the bale increases during decomposition.

Anyone looking to purchase hay bales should be careful and make sure they don’t end up purchasing straw bales. The two products are often packaged in similar ways and many stores use the term straw for both.

If you would like to learn more about hay and feed for your livestock, contact SB Hay & Feed in Amarillo, Texas. Call us today at (800) 652-3036 or Contact Us by email for more information. We aim to help farmers with abundant hay serve other farmers in need across the United States. You can also see the hay we have available to buy or sell your own!