Q:  I have heard that oats are good for poultry because they have a higher fat content and more protein than wheat.  What is your opinion?

A:  It’s partly true, but the false part is as important as the true part.  Oats are good nutrition.  Oat hulls are a pain in the neck, and that’s how oats come, with hulls firmly attached.  Oat hulls don’t come off easily like wheat hulls do, so feed type oats will have the hulls intact.  This creates a lot more work for the bird to get the nutrition from whole oats.  The hulls are indigestible fiber that don’t contribute anything to the bird’s nutrition.  The bird must grind the oats up in its gizzard, and while a kernel of wheat gets digested fast, oats take much longer for the bird to process.  Now there are groats, which are oats with the hull removed, and they make great feed, but they are difficult to find (think human food, like the bulk bins at the grocery store) and they are expensive if you find them.  Same thing for processed oats, like “steel cut” or rolled oats.  “Naked oats” or “black oats” are fine for poultry because their hulls do come off as they are harvested, but they are hard to find also. In general, whole oats won’t hurt your birds, but they have a metabolic cost that makes them a poor choice both in money and production efficiency for birds.

Q:  How about feeding oats to horses and ruminants?

A:  Do it.  They are great.  Animals who digest their feed relatively slowly and use fermentation in their systems do very well on oats.  The hulls themselves have some benefits to ruminants or animals that use their hindgut (horses) to break down the fiber. And as grains go, they pack a lot of calories in their fat content.  Of course they love them, too.

Q: How about pigs?

A: It depends.  Pigs digest their food very fast, and they gobble.  Pet pigs benefit from the healthy fiber and the fat passes through mostly undigested. We don’t want those guys to get too big.  If you are trying to extract the most nutrition from the oats for pigs to get them to grow, oats need to be ground up like cornmeal.  Otherwise they go through so fast the enzymes in the pig don’t break them down well enough and you are wasting your money. 

Q:  Where’s the article about oats from extension.org?

A:  Glad you asked.  It’s here in a shortened up form because the URL is a thousand miles long: http://tinyurl.com/pyjwxum