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Canary hay..what do you know about it?

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  • Canary hay..what do you know about it?

    In over 25 years here in the mid-Atantic in the horse biz,lot of acreage/pasture that I maintain... never heard of it.

    Typically I feed a high quality timothy, and if I have to timothy/orchard mix.

    My hay supplier wants to sell me a timothy/orchard/canary grass mix. I'm sure it will be beautiful as he is stellar about quaity.

    But I have no experience about canary grass.

    Can those who know -- with good knowledge about horse nutrition -- weigh in? New to me and I'm not neophyte! TIA.
    www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
    "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
    Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube

  • #2
    I suspect that what people call "canary grass" might differ...my hay supplier replaces bales that accidentally have "canary grass" in it. But I did see hay on craigslist recently that was a mix of grasses including canary grass, and written in such a way that it was a good thing.

    Curious what the hay experts will say. My horses don't really eat the "canary grass" that comes in our hay sometimes....so I'm not sure what it really is.

    ETA: sorry, I realize my response is useless. But hoping someone else will chime in to help.


    • #3
      As usual, Google is your friend. Lots of studies out there; here's one:


      As a personal anecdote...I have some wild Reed Canary Grass in my fields, and the horses love to nosh on it when it's young...once it gets older/taller/rougher, they don't like it as much. I do have my field with Reed Canary Grass baled because when it's older, it's quite low in sugars, and I'm able to feed that particular batch of hay to my IR/Cushings mare, without any soaking necessary.


      • #4
        The round bales I get often have a good bit of canary reed grass in them. My horses eat it like it candy.
        "As soon as you're born you start dyin'
        So you might as well have a good time"


        • #5
          Interesting, I wonder if the cutting # matters? I generally buy a 1st cutting timothy from my hay guy, but getting the first cutting in can be tricky if it's been a wet spring...sometimes it can be cut on the late side. Maybe that is when canary grass is not very palatable - if it's tall and mature? But if the same field was baled as a 2nd cutting, I suspect it could be very different.


          • Original Poster

            Thanks. I did Google, but I was getting mixed reviews about it. Figured I'd learn more here from people with first hand experience.
            www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
            "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
            Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


            • #7
              Reed's Canary Grass is a type of orchard grass according to my main hay guy. It needs wet ground to grow. It's not a very common hay here in the Mid-Atlantic because of the specific growing conditions needed. Once it's cut, it needs to be baled within 3 days (according to him) or it's reduced to the palatability of straw and is then really only aggreeable to cattle. All of my horses eat it very well, but I have one mare that LOVES it. Whenever I come across some, I buy enough at least for her. Nutritionally, I was told it's about equal to regular orchard grass.



              • #8
                I asked about Canary Grass Hay a few years ago, on another forum and got a couple replies from people who had used it. I knew these two personally, so their remarks stuck in my head.

                One said her animals wasted most of the hay, didn't like it, only ate it because nothing else was presented. She had to up the grain, because they were not getting enough ingested to keep the weight up. She didn't have anything else, not enough budget to go get other hay. She strongly recommended against it unless I had SUPER EASY KEEPERS, who could manage on less hay, while wasting the rest.

                The other managed a Fjord farm in the Midwest. They produced an excellent line of Fjords, well trained and usable. She said one year they had a bad drought, with very little hay produced on the farm. They had Canary Grass growing well in the usually wet areas, so they decided to cut and bale it for hay. They cut before it was fully mature, and fed the Fjords the Canary Grass hay over the winter. She also said there was a fair amount of wasted hay, but the ponies ate it and came into spring in good shape, though no fat ones. Foals were in excellent shape when they arrived and no equines went hungry with the Canary Grass hay in front of them. Importing hay was out of the price range they had in the budget for the animals. So they had to make do with what they had, which was the Canary Grass in the fields to bale.

                I passed on buying the local Canary Grass hay though, after these reports. I don't buy hay that the horses will waste, if I can avoid it. This seller wanted the same price for a bale as the better grass mixes available to me. No bargin there.


                • #9
                  As an aside, has anyone else who has fed it noticed that it smells different from other hay? I've always thought it smelled sweet, a little like caramel (but not sweet like "burnt" hay).
                  "As soon as you're born you start dyin'
                  So you might as well have a good time"


                  • Original Poster

                    Yes, it does smell sweet -- a bit like oat hay.

                    I don't know the ratio of canary to the timothy/orchard in the bales -- but they all seem to love it and are cleaning it up very well.

                    Most of my horses are air ferns and, with the exception of a few, get very little grain. I'm a hay "nut" and this one threw me for a loop.

                    My hay man is great. I've been using him for years. Actually, the last few years he's been getting me a really great brome hay, and when that runs out a lovely timothy/orchard mix.

                    Apparently, he had to give me this timothy/canary/orchard mix to hold me over until he can go pick up my "ususal". But it looks and smells like very nice hay and the horses seem to love it.

                    Thanks for all the info.
                    www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                    "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                    Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube