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Oats: whole, clipped, crushed

From: Lisa

I'm wondering if you could explain the nutritional differences between feeding whole oats and crushed oats. I am currently feeding crushed oats and sweet feed to my two-month-old colt and two mares (nine & four), but am wondering if the whole oats might be more nutritional for them. Which is easier for very young or old horses to chew and digest?

Thanks, Lisa

Hi Lisa! First, be careful with the sweet feed, unless your vet has a particular reason for recommending it, this isn't something that your unweaned foal really needs at this point. He'll be grabbing a mouthful of his mother's feed on occasion, and nibbling her hay, but his own feed should be a formula for young foals. A mixture of milk-replacer pellets and crushed oats is a much more suitable food for him than a sweet-feed mix, especially one intended for adult horses. Try putting milk-replacer pellets in a creep feed area so that he can get to them and the adult horses cannot. At two months, he's still actively nursing and beginning to eat more hay - don't be in a hurry to "push the groceries" to him. If you want to promote his long-term soundness, feed him for HEALTH, not for the maximum growth in the miminum time. Let him mature slowly and naturally.

There's more oat and less husk in clipped oats (the ends have been cut off) than in whole oats. Crushed oats are easier for young and old horses to chew and digest, but again, if you're dealing with very old horses (which you aren't - but in another ten years, you will be) or very young horses (which you are), it's best to use a feed that's designed to meet all of their specific nutritional needs. Your vet can help you identify an appropriate product.

The quality of oats can vary widely - as much as the quality of hay - so if you're feeding whole grains, it's important to monitor their quality. Look for heavy, clean, plump oats that smell good and are not dusty - and stay away from lightweight, dusty and/or musty oats.


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