Nutritional Value Of Oats & Oat Hay

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

Oats and oat hay are becoming an increasingly popular food for sheep and other livestock due to their high nutritional content. Several types of oat hay including Kelsey, Kanota, and Dal are grown. Each of the many varieties of oat products can be a good choice for your animals, depending on their nutritional needs. Before choosing oats or oat hay, it is important to understand why oats are so nutritious. You should also know how feeding these products to your animals can be done safely and effectively and how harvesting oat hay affects its nutritional value.

Why oats are so nutritious

Oats are a simple alternative to complex feed mixtures. Available either rolled, steamed, or whole, this product is a healthy addition to the diets of cattle, sheep, and horses. Oats are all natural and do not need additives to boost their inherent nutritional content. Oats do not contain sugars, are high in fiber, and they can be processed or unprocessed without any loss in quality.

If digestion is a concern, this product can be crimped or steamed for easier digestion. This preparation is especially helpful for older horses whose teeth may have become worn down. Because oats require being chewed, saliva is generated within the horse’s mouth, aiding in digestion.

Oats are also low in calories, which makes them safe to deliver to horses, sheep, or cattle where weight gain is a concern. This product is highly filling, which can help satiate the animal’s appetite to further assist in weight control.

Oat products can bring a positive effect to an animal’s health in a relatively short period of time. The secret is to gradually include oats within the diet until they have replaced previous grains, such as corn. The positive effects can be seen within a few weeks of inclusion in a diet.

Feeding oats and oat hay to your animals

Oats make great forage for horses, sheep, and cattle. This food is high in fiber and can be easily combined with alfalfa to create a diet that is high in fiber and protein. This diet is precisely what a growing animal needs to develop muscle mass and a strong digestive system.

Oat hay is often mixed with legumes, including pea or berseem. This mixture reduces diseases, prevents fungus growth, suppresses weed growth, and increases the nutritional content of the grains. It is important to determine what legumes have been grown in conjunction with your hay. Verifying this information ensures that you are receiving the proper type of nutrition for your animals. It is also important to know that the right level of fertilizer was used during the growth stage. Too much nitrate in the fertilizer can reduce the overall carbohydrate content of the oat hay or make the hay toxic to livestock.

Harvesting oat hay

Oat hay can be harvested as early as May and it is nutrient dense, but also highly susceptible to droughts. Typically, oat hay is sold with the hull intact, which makes it a bulkier product to provide to your animals. Oat hay with larger husks that are tightly packed generally indicates a higher quality product.

It is important to know when your oat hay was harvested. For instance, feeding trials, digestion trials, and chemical analysis show that Kanota oats harvested between the 18-20% flowering stage produce the highest nutrient yield. This value decreases when harvested at higher or lower levels of growth. Kanota harvested between 18-20% flowering stage has a significant impact on the generation of muscle mass in lambs. Oats that are allowed to grow until the dough stage also have a positive impact on lamb production.

Other studies have shown that oats harvested at the boot stage have a low DM, are highly palatable, and have high levels of protein. These oats are ideal for silage. Oat hay harvested at the dough stage has a very high DM and a considerably increased energy value. However, this hay is less palatable and has reduced protein content. It is important to consider these factors when choosing the right oat hay for your herd.

For more information about oat products and oat hay, contact SB Hay & Feed today. Give us a call at (800) 652-3036 or Contact Us by email to learn more. You can also see the hay we have available to buy or sell your own!