Difference Between Hay and Straw


Main Difference

The main difference between the Hay and Straw is that Hay is dried grass or legumes stored as the fodder of animals, in harsh conditions, whereas Straw is the by-product of grains without leaves and seeds may serve as a food source.

Hay vs. Straw

Hay belongs to grass or legumes family, whereas straw is the by-product of the grains like wheat, oats, rice, etc. Hay is majorly used as the fodder for the animals; on the other side, straw is not the major food source, but it can serve as a food supplement in the rare conditions. Hay is rich with nutritional content, whereas straw has poor nutritional content. Hay is usually green in color, while straw is yellow.


Hay cannot be used as a mulch because if the seeds are present, they can sprout out; on the other hand, Straw is preferable to use as mulch in the garden. Hay is dried to a significant extent for the storage as it served as food in the harsh and rainy environment, whereas straw is not mainly dried for this purpose as it is a by-product. Hay is served when access to grassland is not possible, harsh environment, or pasture is not available for grazing, while straw is used when hay or grazing land is not available.

Hay is made when seeds are about to grow before the seed production; on the flip side, straw is made after the harvesting of crops as bare stalks. Hay is preferable to store in the form of round bales to preserve; on the other side of the coin, straw can be stored in the square, round, and rectangular bales. The starch content of hay is very high, and the starch content of straw is very low as compared to hay.


Comparison Chart

Hay is the green, belongs to grass or legumes family, dry, serve as the food for the herbivores, and farm animals, high in nutritional content, stored in the form of bales and affected by the moisture content.Straw is the yellow, bare stems of grains after the harvesting of crops, may serve as food in some cases, low in nutritional content, stored in the form of bales, and have many industrial uses.
Grass or legumesStems of grains after harvest
When seeds are about to growAfter the harvesting of grains
Major Purpose
As food for herbivores, farm animals, also suitable for ruminants and non-ruminantsFood, small and large industrial uses
Nutritional Content
Mulching Source
Not preferred may have leaves and seeds which can grow.They are preferred as they are bare stems.
Starch Content

What is Hay?

Hay is the food of herbivores that belongs to grass or legumes family, cut, and dry for storage. Hay is the fodder for large domesticated and farmed animals, but smaller domesticated animals also served with the hay. It is specifically the source of fodder when grazing land is no more available, weather is inappropriate, and when pasture cannot be accessed. Hay is the composition of grasses like Bermuda grass, ryegrass, while of legumes like alfalfa, forbs, may include the use of green part of barley, wheat, and oats.

Hay is usually green in color. Hay has higher nutritional value as a major food source because the hay is made when the leaves are about to grow before the seeds production. These seeds are more nutritious and digestible. Hay provides protein fiber to animals. Quality of hay is determined by the level of seeds and leaves in hay that are of more nutritional importance as food than the stems of hay.

Hay can be dangerous if the poisonous weeds also get dries in the hay. Bales of hay are compiled depending on the weight of hay they are compiled, their preservation from the seeping. Ruminant animals are more adapted towards the digestion of hay as compared to non-ruminant animals because of different chambered stomachs.

Kinds of Bales of Hay

Small Bales: Arranged in “hayrick” affected by spoilage due to rain.

Large Bales: Protected, either round, squared, and common.

Haybales: Sealed more safely, protected from spoilage.

What is Straw?

Straw is the dry by-product of the yield plants, such as grain that are produced after the crops are harvested as a major component of every crop. The bare stems of the grain crops are usually called as straw. It is of low quality as food. Straw is poor in nutritional value. Straw is not majorly provided but can serve as a food supplement in harsh cases. Straw is majorly used for bedding purposes for animals most commonly in the form of their mattress. Straw can serve as the mulch for the garden plants to avoid evaporation.

Straw is also preferable to use in the production of mushroom compost. Straw has a composition of both major and minor elements in which major elements are oxides of sodium and potassium. Straw has a good capacity to burn for the production of heat if the moisture content is significant. Straw has major content of cellulose, relatively high content of lignin and hemicellulose sugars, low starch content.

Straw is also stored like the hay in the form of the bales, which can be squared, rectangular, or round. Straw has significant uses from history as they are not only useful as the fodder or bedding but also in small scale manufacturing.

Uses of Straw

Straw is used as bedding for animals as well as humans(palliasse), biofuels, biomass (in power plants), construction material as binding material for clay and concrete, most commonly as crafting (straw painting, straw marquetry, straw plaiting (common small industry), scarecrows, Japanese traditional cat house).

Key Differences

  1. Hay is the grass or legume which is cut and dried as a food source, while straw is the bare stems of grains after their harvesting.
  2. Hay is usually green; on the other hand, straw is usually yellow.
  3. Hay is made when the leaves are about to grow before the seeds production; on the other side, straw is made after harvesting of grains.
  4. Hay is majorly used as the source of fodder for animals, whereas straw is not beneficial or sufficient as the source of fodder.
  5. Hay is rich in the nutritional content; on the flip side of the coin, straw is poor in nutritional content.
  6. Hay is well protected and bailed in such a way to avoid the moisture content to prevent spoilage, while straw is not always bailed for that purpose.
  7. Hay is given to animals when the pasture is not available for grazing, weather is inappropriate, or grassland cannot be accessed, whereas straw is given when hay or other food is not available.
  8. Hay is easily digestible as it has low cellulose; on the other side of the coin, the straw is not easily digestible.
  9. Hay is not suitable for mulching in the garden, while straw is suitable for mulching.


Hay is the grass or legume, dried, rich in nutritional content, serves as the major source of fodder for herbivores and farm animals, whereas straw is the by-product of the harvested grains low in nutritional content.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson