And also cattle, sheep, goats and small critters like rabbits and guinea pigs.
And even, as I discovered on a recent ride through rural Alabama, for yard art.
This turkey and John Deere tractor were fashioned from round bales of the stuff and proudly displayed in the owner’s front yard along US 84 near the small town of Opp (slogan is “City of OPPortunity”). Population is close to 7,000. Nearly a fifth of the families there are below the poverty line. OPPortunity seems to have passed by this place.
And in case you were wondering, hay is not the same thing as straw.
Hay is usually the combination of several grasses and grains like alfalfa, brome, and timothy; clover and rye are often components also. Hay is cut when its source is still green, capturing nutrients in the cut-off plants. Hay, in other words, is the primary product, and is used for feeding animals.
Straw on the other hand is basically the byproduct when other plants are harvested. It is made from the leftover shafts of grains like rye, oats, and wheat, after the seed heads have been cut off. It is used as livestock bedding, as fuel, and sometimes as part of a food mixture. It has little nutritional value.
Websites about using straw as a building material abound, and most warn not to confuse it with hay, which is lousy as a building material.
Growing hay looks simple. Let the grasses grow long, cut it and bale it and you’re done.
Not so. Here’s a brief description of what can go wrong: Hay is very sensitive to weather conditions, particularly when it is harvested. In drought conditions, both seed and leaf production are stunted, making hay that has a high ratio of dry coarse stems that have very low nutritional values. If the weather is too wet, the cut hay may spoil in the field before it can be baled. The hay may also develop rot and mold after being baled, creating the potential for toxins to form in the feed, which could make the animals sick. It also has to be stored in a manner to prevent it from getting wet. Mold and spoilage reduce nutritional value and may cause illness in animals.
If you wish, you can use hay bales to enter a whole other universe. Just click here.