Ask the Vet – The do’s and don’ts of feeding oats
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Ask the Vet – The do’s and don’ts of feeding oats

October 30, 2019

SARAH: “Feeding oats–
the do’s and don’ts. What are the benefits/downsides
of feeding them? My grandparents fed them
when I was growing up and all of their horses
were top performers and never had any issues. I still currently feed
them and like the benefits of being more natural. My horses are also
on free choice loose minerals along with
free choice hay and pasture– weather permitting.” DR LYDIA GRAY: OK. Well, when I was making
a list of pros and cons– do’s and don’ts,
whatever she called them, it was kind of the same
things on both lists. Like, oats are a great
source of calories. So if you have a horse
that needs– like you hear of “racehorse oats,” you know? If you’ve a horse that’s a
hard worker or a hard keeper, then they’re an excellent
source of calories because they have sugars and starches– they’re comprised of sugars
and starches, they’re in there. But if you’re going to
feed sugars and starches, they’re some of the most
digestible and safe ones. In that the horse has
enzymes in the foregut– so the stomach and
the small intestine– that digest these
simple carbohydrates so they don’t make it
back to the hindgut where they will get incorrectly
fermented by the bacteria. That’s what happens
with corn, so we don’t like corn as a grain. But oats are a very– they’re a safer grain. So the converse of that is, oats
are a great source of calories. If you have an easy keeper
or a horse who’s not working, SARAH: We won’t
mention any names. DR LYDIA GRAY: They don’t need
oats, because they’re actually not a good source of nutrition. SARAH: Mm-hmm DR LYDIA GRAY: They have around
10% protein– and the protein or the amino acid profile
is not very complete, so it’s not a good
source of protein. Their calcium-phosphorus
ratio is inverted. So they have more– they’re higher in
phosphorus and lower in calcium, which can be a
problem if you feed a lot and it can offset the
balance of the diet. They don’t have a lot of
other vitamins and minerals, so they’re not really
completing the diet. They have a little
bit of fat in them. So as a source of– a broad source of
nutrition, they’re actually not a great choice. So their role in a horse
diet is as a source of calories or energy. And so you feed the
forage, and then you feed the oats as calories
only if your horse needs them. And then you’re
required to provide some sort of ration
balancer pellet or a multi-vitamin
supplement so that they get the actual nutrition. Now something I think she talked
about, loose or free choice minerals? SARAH: Yes. DR LYDIA GRAY: OK, I
should take this platform and say, there’s
only one mineral that horses have a natural
desire to seek out and consume, and that’s salt or sodium. They don’t have the ability to
say, I’m low on copper today, I’m going to take some copper,
or I need more potassium today– they don’t–
nobody has that ability, that has been
proven not a thing. So rather than the
free choice minerals, I would go with
the ration balancer or a multivitamin
mineral supplement, and then only the oats as you
need them is what I would do. So hay, oats if needed, but
some sort of balancer pellet. SARAH: How do you
choose between a ration balancer and a multi-vitamin? Because they’re very similar
in the vitamins and minerals side of things, but
they’re different. DR LYDIA GRAY: The difference
is the ration balancer is going to be fed
in larger quantities. It’s usually a pellet
because it also contains protein or amino acid. So if you know the your hay is
not a great source of protein, like maybe it’s
less than 10%, it doesn’t have a good quality– a profile of amino acids
either, then a ration balancer might be the better choice. It’s also good if you’re
mixing in a lot of stuff, there’s more stuff to
put in because you’re feeding like a pound of maybe
the ration balancer where you’re only feeding
an ounce, two ounces of the multi-vitamin
mineral supplement. SARAH: So if you have other
supplements for your horse, the ration balancer’s a better
place to hide that stuff. DR LYDIA GRAY: Mix it in. SARAH: Yeah, that’s
exactly right.

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