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I ran away from teaching to the country to grow veggies. There are also some chooks and a pair of troublesome goats who were so much trouble they had to go! My simple green life isn't always as simple or as green as I'd like...but I keep trying!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hay! That's the last straw.

There was a time when I didn't know
the difference between hay and straw.

Then I thought I did.

Now I am not sure.

'Straw' in Australia is usually from wheat.
It is what is left after they take the heads off.
It is bailed up and sold off.
It makes great mulch, animal bedding and
you can build whole houses out of it...
It has little value, nutritionally, and
can't be used as stock feed.

See...I sound as if I know what I am talking about.

This is wheat straw....

Many people do not recommend it for use in the hen house
because the hollow stems are a haven for mites and lice.

Now this one is hay.

It is made from cutting the dry grass/pasture in Summer.
It often contains grass seeds and doesn't make good garden mulch...
 unless you really like weeding.

Hay is a good source of nutrition for
livestock. There are different types
of hay and it varies in quality.
Goats are quite happy and healthy
on low grade/cheap hay.

This week when I went to the food and grain store 
and bought both hay and straw I was given 'oaten hay'.  
Hay made from oats. However, it looks like straw.
I know this is a picture of the hay, even though it looks like straw
because it has a few oat seed heads in it.

I raked out the goat house, spread the straw and filled up the feeder with hay...I think.  But Bubba and Bazza ate their bed and left the feeder full.

 Somebody is confused.

I hope they don't try to climb into the feeder 
and sleep there...that would really be the last straw...
or the last hay (????).


  1. Oaten hay is great stuff, beloved of geese too and pigeons.They also enjoy lucerne, as do chooks.

  2. We use oaten and lucerne hay here. Lucerne is great for animals and garden...

  3. We have pea straw here and it's a good mulch and an added thing is that peas pop up everywhere and grow. High in nitrogen I think.

  4. I think you need to expand this lesson on straw and hay Hazel. I understand the wheat leftover bit but where does pea straw and lucerne hay fit in??

  5. I agree with Judith! I use peastraw everywhere, but only because it's cheaper, lol :P I am considering expanding out into lucerne because it's supposed to be even better for the garden.

  6. Where does pea straw fit in to this debate, I wonder?

  7. thelittleblackblog.blogspot.comJuly 2, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    Hey, I am a farmer and I didn't even know what straw was made of!I just thought it was bad hay.
    Don't just love the way goats think outside the square!So glad you are enjoying yours even though they eat the wrong stuff.

  8. Pea straw is what is left after growing peas...for stock feed. So when those peas pop up in the mulch it is no good letting them flower...the peas won't be much good. However, if you let them grow a little them pull them out before they flower..they will add nitrogen to the will the straw as it rots.

    the chickens love pea straw...they scratch about and find the peas.

    Lucerne is grown specifically to make hay for stock feed.

  9. I am waiting for a second lesson. Always thought both are the same thing.

  10. Hazel that was very interesting, thanks heaps, I now know which mulch to buy and I love your misty mountain picture, stunning

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  12. In Northern California, straw can be made from the stalks left after harvesting wheat, barley, oats, or rice. Another byproduct of rice is rice hulls, sold in big plastic bags.

    Hay for animals is made from:
    Grass - pastures are mowed and baled in the late spring, then the grass grows back and is used for pasture. The stems are fine and there are a few seed heads in it.

    Oats - the field is mowed just as the stalks are turning yellow, they are still tender and nutritious. Oats are annual plants, there is only one cutting from this crop. Rarely one can find grain hay that is a mixture of oats, barley, and vetch. Vetch is a pea plant. It's not good for horses.

    Alfalfa - this is what you call lucerne. A field of it is cut as many as 5 times in a growing season. It is very high in protein and is mostly fed to dairy animals. Working horses can have a bit of it, but it's considered too "hot" to be their only feed. Horses can founder on too much alfalfa.

    Our hay in the west is baled fairly dry so it won't get moldy. In other parts of the country, it barely sits in the field overnight (especially grass hay) because it's more humid. In my mind that hay is smelly and horses can get heaves (a lung disease) from eating it.

    Most horses, cows, and goats prefer alfalfa first, then either oat (if it has a lot of grain), or grass hay. Oat hay that has gone too long in the field does have the consistency of straw. Animals will eat the grain heads off it and leave the stems.

    Do you have access to rice hulls? I love them in the chicken yards in the winter. I use a couple of bags to make a 3 inch cover. When it rains, the water soaks through and the rice hulls stay on top, keeping the birds clean and dry. If you get a windy day before it rains, the rice hulls can blow away though. In the Spring, we clean the pens and use the rice hull/chicken poo mixture for mulch. They also make a mixture of rice hulls and shavings that's really nice for the indoor part of a chicken pen. I sprinkle some Sevin dust on the floor before I put the bedding down and that seems to keep the mites under control.

  13. Hazel, have you ever used Hay in cooking? For instance, roast lamb cooked on a bed of hay?

  14. Some good facts here Hazel. I know we were caught out a few times in the early days on our place. Grass seeds in the garden!
    BTW - I have a funny mental image of your goats stuck in the feeder! cheers Wendy

  15. Wow, Jan that is an exhaustive explanation. Thank you so much.

    Growing rice in Australia is a bit controversial due to the large amounts of water required in a very dry continent. So I haven't seen rice hulls for sale...that isn't to say they aren't available in some places.

    We do have sugar cane mulch sold in garden centres. It is chopped up stalks. We can also buy mushroom mulch which is a bit more composty, by the bag or truck load.

    Wood shavings are the fashionable material for the floor of chicken pens. But I like hay and leaves from the garden. My chook house gets cleaned out pretty frequently though as I am always looking for material for the compost.


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