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Feeding Oats (United States horse folks)
I'm a farm journalist in Canada.
I'm working on an article about oats and oat markets. Canadian oat growers are trying to regain the U.S. pony oat market. In the last several years, feed companies have been selling more processed/pelleted feeds to horse owners, which often contain other grains rather than oats, according to my sources (this is a general trend - there are likely individual suppliers that still use oats).
Anyway, I'm throwing up a quick poll that I may or may not use in my article. As the article is focusing on the U.S. equine oats market, I'd ask only Americans to fill out the poll. However, everyone is welcome to discuss anything related to oats, etc... on this thread, if you're not sick to death of the topic.
I base my feeding plan around my forage and a well balanced for my area ration balancer. If I need extra calories, I use alfalfa or a non grain based senior feed. I would probably would not ever feed oats as it is cheaper to use the method I am using now and they are not a balanced fortified ration. Id still have to add to them to balance my horses diet.
I'm really not a horse nutrition expert. What's in a ration balancer? Does it contain grain as well as fats, vitamins and minerals? And out of curiosity, what kind of grain is in your senior feed?
I couldn't take the poll because although I think there are better alternatives than oats to feed horses, I don't necessarily think they're 'unhealthy'. Many people use them with good results, but I prefer a non-grain based feed regimen.
Okay, I have to stop watching the poll results and go back to work. I seem to have the attention span of a gnat today.
I don't always feed oats, but oats are STILL the safest grain. After years of keeping horses I prefer pelleted grain, but I like crimped oats, and I had supplemented feed with oats off and on for years.
I feed oats only in the summer when our horses are being worked hard. I also feed TC senior. Both horses get up too 6 lbs of feed a day only 2 to 3 lbs of oats though gives my horse more zip for riding.. Winter time i feed no grain at all only hay and a vit/min suppelment.. Our horses lose to much weight in summer if only fed hay and grass thats why i give grain then..Otherwise their deit is forage based.
Mine are getting a small amt of oats cut in with their ration balancer (Progessive's ProAdvantage). It was recommended by a nutritionist, I personally don't think they need them but it makes them think they are getting a "real meal" because they all only get a lb of ration balancer each day. This may make me a horrible person but I kind of like that there are always a few that don't get digested, the birds then pick through the manure and I don't have to harrow poo in the pastures :)
If I had any IR horses, I wouldn't feed them.
Generally speaking, feeding a diet with low NSCs and sugars (ie grain free) is most beneficial for horses. Many different "groups" of horses must be restricted to low NSC options such as EPSM horses (and draft horses in general), Insulin Resistant and Cushinoid horses (and old horses in general), and ponies and other easy keepers, etc... The only horses that IMO can generally tolerate grain in any capacity are middle aged horses in a high work load. And even then I have found that they respond far better to a high fat diet based around forage (having a horse who has won at an international competition on a high fat, low NSC diet).
So, LisaG, I would highly, highly recommend you talk to a few equine nutritionists (FeedXL is a great resource - they may have some good contacts for you) and come to your own conclusion about how smart or safe it is to feed oats to horses. I have seen first hand the huge amount of metabolic, hoof and laminitis issues that a grain based diet has even on young and healthy horses. You should also contact Hoffman's (they have some great nutritionists) and talk about the ration that they have developed specifically for Western Canadian and American horses.
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