Farm Focus: Hay

October 26, 2012

By Rachel Bertone

Farm Focus: Hay

The 2012 drought reinforced the importance of hay to Illinoisans. Livestock, including horses, normally graze pastures in the summer and eat hay as winter feed, but with dry pasture conditions, many farmers had to dip into their hay supply early. Take a look at some farm facts about this important crop:

  • What’s the difference between hay and straw? Hay serves as feed for livestock and other animals, while straw is primarily used for bedding, mulch and coverings.
  • In 2011, Illinois produced 1.576 million tons of hay, with the southwest region producing most of the total. Alfalfa hay made up more than 952,000 tons grown on 280,000 acres throughout the state.
  • Washington County ranks No. 1 in the state for production of alfalfa hay and mixtures, while Johnson County ranks No. 1 for all other hay production.
  • Different varieties of hay include clover, orchard grass and Timothy hay.
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