Straw VS Hay Bedding - Comparison Guide [2021] - horse mania

Straw VS Hay Bedding – Comparison Guide [2021]

Every animal needs a nice bedded area every day. According to experts, there is no perfect bedding, as each one of them has its benefit. Although there are many options, the straw is the most common choice for horse bedding. Senior horse feed is also essential.

The right choice depends on so many factors like absorbency, feeding behavior, sleeping habits, compost quantity, expense, and labor costs, etc. Best barn paint can also give you comfort in breathing and all.

In this article, I will discuss why they need bedding and other necessary information that helps you to understand which bedding is perfect for your animals. What goes with the best calming supplements for horses.

Straw offers less cost and suitable for bedding. The hay can be used as bedding material for your animals if needed. Make sure you have a good barn coat to be comfortable.

I suggest you use straw as bedding material for all of your animals because it is an economical choice for bedding. You can also use hay as bedding when your regular bedding material is not available.

What is Hay?

The hay means nutritious grasses, legumes, or herbaceous plants that have been cut and dried for use to animals fodder. It is the perfect choice for large grazing animals.

Hay is suitable for users to feed animals, like horses, cows, sheep, and goats. They eat hay, especially in the winter-time because in winter months there is no fresh grass available to graze. The smaller animals also eat hay. Cats do not like to eat hay.

Hay gives high-quality fiber and nutrients that need animals to stay healthy. It keeps animals stable or barn. Many different types of hay available, like timothy, alfalfa, Meadow, and Orchard.

This improves the protein level of your animals as well makes it too fattening to feed. The alfalfa is higher in calcium and a better choice for growing youngsters but is not suitable for adults.

Hay is a livestock food that can be used straw, but it is an expensive project.

What is straw

Straw means plant stubble from a harvested crop. It is used for livestock bedding material as well not as nutritionally valuable as hay. It also applies to house and crafts.

It refers to the harvest of staple crops like wheat, barley, and oats after harvested the plants are dead, so the straw is dried and formed into bales.

The straw is generally very low in quality and not healthy for animals. It’s only suitable for an animal’s diet when nothing else to eat. Nowadays, straw has been used as a fuel source for bioenergy.

This becoming famous for building material as well can be insulated with bales of straw. It requires less cost.

Straw VS Hay

Straw is not as nutritionally valuable compare to hay. It is less expensive compare to others. Hay is suitable for eating, and straw is better for bedding. Straw provides little nutrition, and hay offers much calcium and nutrition.

The straw is sturdy, thick, lightweight, and yellow or golden. On the other hand, hay is dense and green, but there are varieties. The hay is harvested before the plants make seed and are just growing leaves.


Straw is perfect for bedding material, and hay is suitable for feed supplements. The straw generally costs two or three times less than hay. So straw is ideal for bedding.

When the straw dried out, it works perfectly for building nests and providing cushioning for animals to sleep.


What is the best bedding for a wet horse?

Miscanthus bedding is the best for a wet horse. It is very absorbent and suitable for horse straw. If your horse is very messy, then use shavings and make massive banks with a thinnish bed on mats.

Wheat Straw bedding is the perfect bedding straw for the horse. It comes with a hard stem. Wheat straw doesn’t flatten rapidly under the weight of the horse and also necessary for drainage. These are used for bedding material.

What is the major difference between straw and hay?

Hay is a crop planted and cut as a feed crop for cattle, horses, and other farm animals. Straw is a byproduct of a grain crop;  it’s usually wheat straw that you see. It is much better for use as a garden mulch.

Is straw or hay more expensive?

Straw is far less costly than hay, selling for under $4/square bale. Hay is more nutritious but more expensive; you can buy hay for the horses to eat. Since straw is cheaper, dried, and therefore less likely to mold or attract moisture, you can buy straw for the backyard chicken coop and nesting boxes.

Does Straw help grass?

Straw is used to covering grass seeds. Straw is often used to cover newly started grass seed to diminish the amount of seed relocated by wind and water. The straw holds moisture and keeps the grass seeds and seedlings from drying out. Until built, grass seed or plants will die if allowed to dry completely.

How fast does hay grow?

The perfect time to harvest grass or alfalfa for hay is while it’s green but not yet flowering. If you notice your crop starts to flower, harvest the crop within several days, if possible. Alfalfa usually flowers 7-8 months after planting.

Is straw better than shavings?

Shavings and wood chips have some advantages over the straw. More absorbent, more readily available, do not have the bulk of straw bales, provide more consistent footing, are available in truckloads or bags, and less wastage.

Why is straw used for bedding?

Straw is usually used for bedding material, while the hay is used for feed supplements. Straw is dried out and works perfectly for building nests and provides cushioning for animals for sleep. Straw is more practical to use as bedding than hay is because of its lower cost.

Why do horses need bedding? 

  • Bedding is safe for horses.
  • Cost-effective
  • Not too dusty
  • Composts Well
  • Absorbent
  • Easy to store
  • Readily Available
  • Easy to handle

A horse doesn’t need a soft, fluffy bed. The old horses who might lie down frequently or stay down for more extended periods are required a soft, fluffy bed. The bedding is to absorb urine and moisture.

What kind of straw is best for bedding? 

Straw bedding is of four types, such as Wheat Straw, Oat Straw, Barley Straw, Rye Straw.

Among them, the wheat Straw is the best bedding straw. It does not flatten earlier because It has a hard stem. It is a perfect choice for bedding material as well as essential for drainage. It is less expensive compare to other straw bedding.

What is warmer hay or straw? 

Straw is warmer than hay. Straw offers higher moisture compared to hay. It is cheaper, and its hollow tubes retain warm air that keeps warmer in winter.

What is the best bedding for a wet horse?

Miscanthus bedding is the best for a wet horse. It is very absorbent and suitable for horse straw. If your horse is very messy, then use shavings and make massive banks with a thinnish bed on mats.

How Much Bedding is Enough?

Before choosing, you must keep in mind that bedding is useless unless it provides comfort and cushioning for the horse. when deciding how deeply to bed your stalls, make sure you consider the followings:

Stall flooring

You need bedding to absorb ammonia. Concrete or un-matted floors will require more bedding compare to matted floors. The stall mats and pads are not free; that’s why I suggest you not use it for bedding.

Type of bedding

The density of the bedding elements will affect the amount of cushioning it provides. 

Your time and labor

If your horse’s bedding is so deep, then it takes longer to clean. Often it generates more waste volume, which takes up room in the dumpster.


A deep litter system provides excellent cushioning without requiring a large volume of bedding to maintain once established.

It creates a packed bottom layer that generates heat as well as keeps fresh shavings on top, so the horse stays clean and comfortable.

If you fix your budget, then I suggest you cost a little bit more to buy bedding that offers a deep litter system.

Why use hay as bedding?

The three main reasons are given below:

  • poor planning
  • cost of straw being unusually high
  • use up leftover hay right before putting animals on pasture

Poor quality hay is suitable for bedding because high-quality hay is nutritionally valuable and healthy that is suitable for eating.

Final Thoughts

The hay comes from plants that are good and healthy for animals to eat. If you want to use it for bedding, it will be two or three times more costly. For these economic reasons, I think straw is better to use in bedding.

It makes more sense to use a straw for your livestock. These keep fresh shavings on top, so the horse stays clean and comfortable. It minimizes mucking time.

When straw prices are high, then hay will be a good substitute, but stick to straw as the reasonable choice.