But I still wonder about oats being SO bad, whether this is old info & it's to do with more research that has given me this, but a nutritionist I have a fair amount of respect for has told me that oats are the 'lesser evil'(still not great & there are generally better alternatives...), because they're relatively(compared to other cereal grain) low in starch & they are also able to be broken down in the stomach(as you no doubt understand that's conditional, depending on amount, etc, etc) That it is still best to feed processed, but it is the exception to the rule compared to other grains, that MUST be processed or they are completely unable to be broken down in the stomach.
So... not saying oats are good for the horse, just the best of a bad bunch.
Good question: "...wonder about oats being so bad....." and a true(ish) statement "lesser evil". Best of the 3....but is that reason to use them?
No power at the farm for the moment (ice storm last night), but as fate would have it a friend had her notes from a class we took last year I think (very short, refresher for me that I'd forgotten about, but actually a great class for learning the basics and a bit more...which is really all that's needed for someone who owns horses). Anyway, she'd kept most of her material
, so I got some better numbers.
I'll keep it short by just addressing the oats.
(Just for general information, the cyanide, arsenic and strychnine was close sine barley is worse than oats and strychnine is worse than arsenic
) While there are other grains that are fed (wheat, rye, etc...) the big three are Oats, Barley and Corn (Maize). Oats come out at approximately 40% starch (which is probably why you'll hear is the best), Barley is approximately 55% and Maize is approximately 70%.
Now on to oats (and why some say feed oats...the lesser evil of the big 3) Whole oats with the hull still have some fiber value (the hull), but whole oats are very difficult to digest. So oats are fed "naked" (without the hull) and processed (usually rolled oats, cracked corn, etc..., but there are other processes including up to extrusion). Processed oats have the best digestion rate of the "big 3" in the small intestines (SI). That sounds great so oats is the way to go....????....well, perhaps it would be true if we end the story there
. Of that 40% starch that comes with the oats less than 20% is processed in the SI (if we're lucking...maybe over 15% of the 40%). That means at least 20% + (over 50% of the starch in oats) is reaching the cecum (but still lower than barley or maize)...in addition to any other lesser amounts of starches that could be coming from the hay, grass, etc..... in the horse's diet. (that's why I don't like to say that the microbes that deal with it are "bad" since they do have a purpose...just need to be kept at very small quantities). Remember that horses get starches and NSC from many sources. They usually reach the hindgut and have to be dealt with. It's the need to keep the amount of it low and those "bad" microbes will be there to take care of it while the good microbes, which are thriving an a ph level that the "bad" microbes don't like, take care of all the fiber that should be making up what the horse should "really" be living on.
Now, what do we get from oats? More starch, NSC that we don't need along with a good dose of P which is needed to a certain level (kept at the proper ratio). Do we need oats for this (is it really worth the starch and NSC to get that phosphorous)? The only time I would say "yes" is if there was no other source for it. If you need the energy and P that oats are used for then I'd say use copra (all the pluses with none of the negatives). Except for beet pulp being high in CA, with pretty much no P, it gives you pretty much all the positive attributes of oats too, without the negatives.
It is certainly true that of the top 3, oats is the best of them. Certainly better than corn or barley (although the difference with barley is only around 15% + or - going it and being dealt with in the hindgut).
Putting it into perspective most people would logically elect to have foods with a higher level of arsenic over foods with cyanide or strychnine since the later two are more lethal at lower doses. Or a better example would be selecting the food that had the lowest level of arsenic of the 3. However, would they elect to ingest that same level of arsenic (which still poses it's own risk to their overall health) as the price of getting the other nutrition they need if those same nutrients were readily available from better, healthier sources with less arsenic or perhaps even no arsenic?
(Perhaps I should have use trans fats for the human comparison
....although we do eat foods with arsenic....it's a naturally occurring substance in soil that plants taken....brussel sprouts tend to have a good, but still low dose of arsenic
That's why I hold to the stance that all grains should be avoided. Can there be cases when a grain should be fed? Sure, even cases when I'd recommend it, but they'd be pretty dire cases
. E.g. If I was riding through the wastes of Nevada (the state with the lowest amount of rainfall in the US) out of feed with no grass, no hay, no vegetation, no water in sight and then behind a rock I came across a mud hole with pile of oats hay next to it along with a bucket with whole oats (which are very difficult to digest) I'd let my horse feast on them and drink the muddy water
. I just wouldn't do it under normal conditions when I can make a better choice for health of my animal vs having to accept the only choice to keep it alive.