Feeding oats to horses

Laura on grain drill-cover cropping

Hi Doc — Hope you’re doing well! I just have a quick question about horses and oats. We grew some oats and combined them and I’d like to feed some to the horses.

My question is – they are not hulless nor am I able to mechanically de-hull them. People certainly don’t like to eat them like this, but is it still OK to feed them to the horses? I’ve heard some horror stories about bearded grains causing abscesses in horses mouths and hope this wouldn’t do that but thought I should check. –Thanks, Laura. (Laura is our many-times student, good friend, and owner of 47th Avenue Farm.)

Hi Laura — Traditionally oats for horses are fed just as they come out the combine. Breaking down the kernel by rolling, grinding, etc., only increases the digestibility of oats for horses by about 5% so is usually not worth the effort and or expense – whenever I’ve compared prices and practices, I could buy 105 pounds of whole oats cheaper than 100 pounds of processed oats and get the same nutrient value.

Laura, Doc, and Bonnie

Remember when you begin a new feeding program with any concentrate or forage for horses start with small amounts of feed or short grazing times on the new feed and gradually work up to the desired amount over a period of a week or ten days – while monitoring for signs of adverse digestive or other effects.

We still have snow on the mountain tops but its wet, green and blooming in the valley, sunshine and in the 80s alternating with clouds, coats, gloves and frost – in other words, a normal springtime in the Rockies. Take care, stay safe, and have fun with those mares of yours –Doc