Are Hay Rides Safe For Celiacs And Those On A Gluten-Free Diet?

Did you know there's a difference between hay and straw? Hay is a food source for feeding animals. Hay is actually a plant that is cut when it is alive and full of grain. Hay is often a mixture of grasses, such as ryegrass, timothy, or fescue - or it may be comprised of alfalfa or cloves. 


Straw, on the other hand, shouldn't contain any grain. Straw is the dried stalks of cereal plants, like wheat, oats or barley. It’s a by-product of harvest. It's simply the stalks of standing plants after the grain has been harvested. The grain is cultivated by a machine that cuts it off of the stalk, removing the grain. If any seeds remain on the stalks, it’s by accident. The stalks are left in the ground and eventually die. Then after that occurs and once they are free of moisture, they are cut, raked, and baled. The baled straw can then be used as animal bedding, for erosion control, biofuel, home building, and of course, hay rides. Well, actually, technically it's really straw rides. 

Does the Straw on Hay Rides Contain Any Gluten? 

I wrote a little bit about this in a previous blog post Vegetables Grown in Wheat Straw. Does the straw contain gluten? When wheat, rye or barley straw is harvested, the seed or the kernel of wheat is separated from the stalk. The seed is the part of the wheat plant that contains gluten. But could the wheat straw still contain some gluten due to dust and contamination from harvesting? 

My husband, the farmer, thinks the straw couldn't possibly be completely gluten-free as there's no way to guarantee they're getting all the seeds out. I'd have to agree with him. 

Are Hay Rides Safe for Celiacs and Those on a Gluten-Free Diet? 

So, the question is - are hay rides safe for celiacs and those on a gluten-free diet? I'm still not too sure of the answer on this one, even after all my research. My gut tells me no, they're really not. The dust may contain bits and particles of gluten and every bump during that tractor ride, a little more may fly into the air. Searching through the celiac forums, there are a lot of conflicting opinions. Some find that bales of straw often caused a reaction, while others felt the straw was perfectly safe for those with celiac and gluten allergies and intolerances.

A Gluten-Free Option for Touring a Farm

If you're like me and questioning the safety of a hay ride for you or your child, there may be another option. There are now wagons that ride behind the tractors that do not use hay for seating. A "hayless" hay ride or hay rides without the straw. The newer wagons are terrific for those with celiac and gluten intolerance or gluten allergies. My husband's farm now has one. On his farm here, they use both a traditional wagon filled with straw bales and also a newer "hayless" wagon.

So What Do You Think?

Do you think hay/straw rides are safe? Is straw safe to be around? Do you worry about any of the dust from the bales? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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Reader Comments from my previous website (10)

My son is allergic to wheat. He does not go on farm field trips with his school, or on hayrides regardless of place. His life is not worth the risk!

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBridgette Geoghegan

Bridgette, I wouldn't take the chance either with a wheat allergy. You're right, it's just not worth it. Because we're a farm family, it's sad to know your son won't get to see a farm, but we completely understand. Someday, my daughter plans to have her own entirely gluten-free farm, and we would welcome you and your son for a special grand tour!

My daughter and I have Celiacs (both recently diagnosed) and we have a horse. My daughter handles and is around hay on a daily basis. What will be next?

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

Colleen, believe me, I often feel the same way you do. And being newly diagnosed, I know, it can sometimes seem overwhelming at times. As far as hay, there are three types of hay that I know are gluten-free - Timothy, Alfalfa and Teff. There was a great post in the celiac forum about horses and caring for them - and if you scroll down to the post from Takala she has a lot of tips you might find useful, too.

as I lay here on my bed, feeling like the "f" word (you know the one other than Funny, Fabulous and or/Freaken awesome) :O) reading about DH (gluten rash) and Celiac Disease, I came across this blog. As I type this, I am still waiting for the results of my blood work, to find out what is going on with my body. I just recently completed a massage therapy course and in the first month of starting the class, I started taking a new calcium/magnesium fizzy supplement, at the suggestion of one of the instructors. I also started getting bumps (which soon became blisters) on the nap of my neck (at the hairline) Now, be it coincidence to starting the supplement, and practicing massage techniques on each other in my class, (which moves metabolic waste in our bodies) or not, I have a body covered in bumps/blisters! (possible D.H.?) I itch, I scratch to the point of bleeding and contrary to what some may say ("don't scratch"), I scratch! (to me, that's like telling someone with a full bladder who has to go potty, "don't go potty"....yea right!) anyway, (to make a long story short) :O) My sister was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, 12 years ago. I was diagnosed a few years ago as having Diverticular disease and IBS, (sorry, for TMI) as well as being told that I have Eczema. I've just recently read that those 3 things can be a sign/symptom of Celiac. This rash of mine, has been going on for at least 3 months now and I feel like jumping out the window. (not literally, I wouldn't actually jump) (besides, It's a long way to the ground!) The doctors, in my small town...."bite the big one" as far as I'm concerned (except for my gastro, who Thankfully saw me, and ordered some blood work) My entire body is full of this freaken rash. I met up with my sister the other day, and was telling her that I just spent like $200.00 purchasing gluten free foods, and then she reminded me that my shampoo and toothpaste, not to mention soap and make up and even the gum in my mouth had gluten in it (she knows, because they were the same products that she Used to use) I'm thinking to myself "shit" (I mean crap), I can't afford this! and then, to make matters worse, I was out feeding our goats and chickens this morning, and started thinking to myself, duh, what about the hay/straw in the barn, and the other animal foods? Do they have gluten in them? My husband will be bringing a cow and a calf home tonight and we plan on raising more pigs in the near future. I am the one who feeds the animals, picks up more food/hay when they're out, cleans their stalls as well as the chicken coop. Holy crap! I knew when my sister was diagnosed with celiac disease, that she had to worry about some of her every day products, but I had no idea that our little family farm could be detrimental to her health and depending on my blood work, mine too. I am so glad that I found this post and I'm hoping that my results come back negative for celiac. But for now, I am, at the least, eating gluten free and keeping my fingers crossed that I won't have to bequeath my daily chores around here to someone else in the family! One day I hope to be back to my bubbly old self, cuz this rash and how I feel, actually sucks! Thanks for the info.

August 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTraci

Hi Traci! Glad you found my blog! We're a farming family, too, so I completely understand where you're coming from in regards to being around all the hay and straw.

It's great that you're being tested, especially since your sister has already been diagnosed and celiac is genetic. My brother has it, all his kids and two of my sister's children, too. Also my sister-in-law has it and all her sisters, too.

But sometimes some family members get it, some don't. Two of my sisters don't have it, even though some of their children do. Even with twins - one can have it and not the other.

But that said, they might not have celiac but instead often they might have a gluten intolerance and currently there's no test for gluten intolerance. Could you have had a gluten intolerance back when you were diagnosed with IBS? Who's to know? Many with IBS actually have problems with gluten.

And you'll find many with gluten issues also had "doctors who bite the big one" as you put it - and I have no idea, why, now knowing as much as I do, that it's not thought of more as an underlying possibility for so many illnesses.

When I think of any type of skin disorder - acne, rashes, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis - the first thing that comes to mind is gluten or other food sensitivity. Corn intolerance or sensitivity can also be related to eczema.

Gluten-free eating can be more expensive but it doesn't have to be. Stay away from all the boxed, processed stuff and just eat real food. Do you guys grow your own veges? Check out for things like toothpaste and body care products that are gluten-free. They have some of the lowest prices. Use this code to save you $10 off your first purchase - CEL291.

Some hay does contain gluten - try to use Timothy, Alfalfa or Teff which do not. Straw should be gluten-free, but because of cross-contamination issues might still contain trace amounts of gluten.

And, Traci, this is something I often tell people. Tests or not, listen to your body and the signals and signs it is sending you. It will let you know without fail which foods it knows are good for your over all well being and which aren't. See how you feel while you're following a gf diet now. Many of my readers implemented a gf diet on their own, regardless of the test results or what their doctors told them because, plain and simple, they just felt so much better without the gluten in their diets.

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us!

Hi Celeste,

Thank you so much for the information. Still no word on my test results, but Thankfully, I'm feeling a lot better today. (I've been taking an Rx for Dapsone from a friend who was diagnosed with Celiac and D.H) (yes, against my dr. and gastro's wishes) and gave up the gluten. I even slept all the way past 7a.m. this morning, (Heck ya, that never happens!) 
Disclaimer: To any younger readers, Do as the Dr's say, not as I do! (and for sure, trust your own body and what it's telling you, don't give up on finding the answers if your feeling like something is going on, there is more than one dr. out there, someone Will listen, eventually, and find out some answers)

We do have a garden, I love Fresh veggies and have to admit, when I was away for the majority of the 12 weeks while in massage school, I would grab all kinds of junk food and a piece of wheat toast and hard boiled eggs, as I scrambled out the door to make it to class on time (funny, I was like that in high school too!) (kids, that's not funny)

I'm staying away from the animal feed, at least until the rash goes away and I'm going to have to quit letting our poult climb on me, because I itch almost immediately when he does.....he's so cute though!

I sometimes wonder if my husband has celiac, he has weird rashes on his skin, as well as psoriasis, and he's grouchy. I asked him to go G.F with me and he was on board all the way up until he saw gluten free beer in the fridge....he almost quit talking to me. But at least our daughter is on board. (you win some, you lose some!) :O)

I spent a few hours today researching some of the food items in my pantry (mostly condiments and spices) and was happy to find that almost every one of them made the G.F. list, yay! At least I won't be chucking everything that we already have.

Since I've been back from school, I'm getting back on track with my "normal" healthy eating habits, which always makes me feel better and no matter what the test results show, I'm sticking to this new way of life for me, (G.F.) just in case!

Thanks again for the information. Happy Gluten Free Eating!

August 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTraci

Hi Traci!

Glad you found the information helpful. It will be interesting to see what your results are, especially because you seem to be feeling well on a gluten-free diet now. I agree, I think you should stay away from the animal feed until your rash clears up. Might be a good idea. Since you start itching right after you come into contact with your poult, that might have something to do with it, too.

The skin is such a good indicator of food intolerances and food allergies, so it may be possible that your husband does have an intolerance or an allergy to some food, also. Great to hear that your daughter is on board with the gluten-free diet and also that a lot of the foods you have in your home are already gluten-free.

Continue to let me know how things work out for you, and Happy Gluten-Free Eating! :)

August 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterCeleste Clevenger - Celeste's Best

Loved this post! I've thought about this for weeks as we are at harvest time. I had decided that basic hay and straw handling does not effect Celiacs. Now as I sit on the couch next to my son, both of us moaning, I am changing my opinion. The only difference in our weekend was a short jaunt up some bales of hay to see the chicken eggs. We have spent the day in full blown gluten reaction. Thank you for posting such an open-minded perspective. We are all different and conclusive evidence is hard to find since it is subjective to the varying stages of inflammation and disability. Great to have some opinions to compare.

September 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

AlertThe below post has not yet been created.

Sorry, Sarah, I somehow missed your comment when it first posted. Getting ready to change over to a newly designed website soon and hopefully that won't happen anymore.

And sorry, too, you and your son were glutenized from the hay. Such a simple thing, that you wouldn't normally even think about. Living on a farm again with so much hay and straw around it's something I'm always thinking about.

I'm sure there are many celiacs who have no issue at all with hay rides or being around hay, but you're right we're all in varying stages so what might affect me may not affect the next person.

Thanks for your comments!

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