Hay vs. Straw: A Look at Key Differences

For those outside the agriculture industry, it can be pretty hard to distinguish between hay and straw. After all, both grasses look relatively similar when they’re harvested and baled together. Both of them are used in agriculture applications, for some aspect of raising livestock, and both tend to grow during the same time of year. For those who suffer from confusion between these two popular products, here’s look at the qualities that distinguish them from each other in everyday usage.

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The Fluff Factor: Straw Tends to Have Greater Volume
When compared to hay, straw tends to be a bit “fluffier” and more voluminous, which is what makes it such a good building material. It doesn’t get weighted down by a heavier overall weight, and it isn’t nearly as concentrated as hay when baled together. This is why straw bales are typically quite light and easy to handle, while hay bales are a chore for most people to sling from one place to another.

Hay is Food, Straw is Not
Another clear difference between hay and straw is their use as either food or something other than food. Hay is used to feed many animals, including cattle, while straw is simply not suitable for eating in most agriculture applications. Instead, straw is more commonly used as an animal bedding material, a material used when creating baskets or, of course, a building material used for sustainable building.

Weight and Application are Clear Differences
Whether it’s the greater weight of hay or straw’s use in building and baskets instead of as a source of food for livestock, there are pretty big differences between the two products which most consumers should be easily able to understand.