by, Jo Carol Hebert
Hey You! Do you know who eats hay?
Horses, cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, rabbits, and guinea pigs. All these creatures eat hay!
Do you want to learn more about this “food?”
There’s A Lot to Hay!
Hay is grass that is cut, dried and stored for use as animal food. These grasses include names like timothy, rye, orchard, and Bermuda grass. Hay can include legumes like alfalfa, clovers, peas, beans, and peanuts. The leaf and seed materials in hay are healthy food for livestock animals on farms and ranches.
Oats, Barley & Wheat? That’s Straw!
Straw is the green stems of grain plants like oats and wheat. Straw is used for bedding to keep animals warm and dry. Straw does not include the leaves and stems of the plant. It is not good food for animals.
In the Winter? Stay With the Hay!
Farmers and ranchers feed their livestock hay when there is not enough green pasture for grazing. Also, hay is an available food source during winter, when animals are kept in stables or barns
Did You Know?
- A ‘haystack’ is a pile of hay
- Haystacks are called ‘stooks’, ‘shocks’, and ‘ricks’
- A ‘bale’ is a square block or rolled up hay
- Hay-eating animals have special stomachs to digest the coarse grass
Let’s Make Hay
Like all crops, hay is affected by the weather. It must be harvested and stored in ideal weather conditions, not too hot or cold or wet. Making hay is a process of cutting, drying, processing and storing tall grass in the Spring. Harvested hay is stored in a barn or shed to protect from moisture and rot. Hay must stay dry.
Scythes and Sickles – Sharp Blades!
Early hay-makers used hand tools to cut grass and grains. They moved across the fields swinging a scythe (long, curved, sharp blade on a long handle) and a sickle (semi-curved sharp blade on a short handle).
Artwork of the 1500’s shows reapers using these menacing-looking tools.
Making Hay Yesterday and Today – The McCormick Reaper
In 1831, Cyrus McCormick, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, invented a mechanical ‘reaper’ that could cut, separate, and bind the grasses. This mechanical device was a new way of harvesting crops. It saved the field worker from the back-breaking labor of hand-cutting grass. It yielded greater numbers of bales in less time.
By 1845, the McCormick Reaper had plowed the way for the Industrial Revolution of machines replacing people in agriculture and other industries.
“Making Hay While the Sun Shines”
This is the truth about making hay. Hay grows best during the Summer when the sun shines brightly. This truth about hay has entered our language as a figure of speech called an idiom. That means it was given a different meaning from the original meaning.
As an idiom, it means: “make the best use of an opportunity”, or “take advantage of a good situation while there is still time”.
Hey! Kids. What do you think of that?
Educators: Check out Smarty Pants Curriculum Corner now offering more ‘Hay things’, like Scarecrow Art. Also, Language Arts with Drama and Comprehension Questions from the Aesop Fable – The Ants and the Grasshopper, and the Nursery Rhyme, Little Boy Blue.