Horse

Oats for Performance Horses

Life Stage : Mature - Performance

Nutrition : Ingredients & Nutrients

Karen E. Davison, Ph.D.

Director, Nutritionist, Equine Technical Solutions

Oats are a good source of calories, fuel from starch and a decent amount of oil, some protein and amino acids.

However, they lack many important nutrients performance horses need to stay in top form. Maybe that is why successful horse trainers through the ages have often fed the best-quality oats they could find, but then added various supplements to try and meet all the nutritional needs of top-level performance horses. They just could not maintain top performance on oats and hay alone.
 
Horses like oats, and the tradition of using oats runs deep in many horse trainers. As a result, they are often reluctant to embrace commercial feeds as a better option for the horses under their care. In many cases, commercial feeds will appear to be very good, and trainers may understand that quality commercial feeds offer more consistent and balanced nutrition. Yet many trainers hold on to oats and blend or cut commercial feed with them. What is the end result of that practice?

Oats for horses by the numbers

Let’s compare the nutrition from oats to Purina® Omolene #500® horse feed, which is an exceptional feed formulated specifically to provide optimal nutritional support for top-level performance horses. There are oats in Omolene #500®, but they are blended with other quality ingredients to provide a very palatable, nutritionally balanced, diverse fuel source. Omolene #500® horse feed contains a full complement of vitamins and minerals, so no additional vitamin or mineral supplements are necessary. 
 
In the chart below, which compares the difference in nutrient levels between oats and Omolene #500® horse feed, you can see why supplements are necessary with oats. Oats are a good ingredient in horse feeds, but nutrient levels are variable, and oats are lacking in many important nutrients needed to sustain peak performance. When you cut a formulated feed with oats, you lose so much.
 
Nutrient Omolene #500® feed              Oats 50:50 Blend
Calories/lb. 1,650 -27% -14%
Protein, % 12.0 around 12% around 12%
Lysine, % 0.53 -26% -13%
Fat, % 8.0 -42% -21%
Calcium, % 1.1 -93% -46.5%
Phosphorus, % 0.5 -32% -16%
Copper, ppm 55 -89% -44.5%
Zinc, ppm 220 -84% -42%
Vitamin E, IU/lb. 150 -98% -49%
 
In many cases, when you consider the cost of oats, feeding Omolene #500® horse feed is not only more nutritionally accurate; it is also usually less expensive to feed if you add in the cost of the different supplements used to try and provide the missing nutrition. When you consider the amount you have to feed to maintain good condition and sustain a level of work, it would take 27 percent less Omolene #500® horse feed than whole oats, and then you must add the necessary supplements.
 
For example, if your horses needed 7 pounds of oats per day along with hay to maintain good condition under the level of activity they are asked to do, you would only need to feed a little more than 5 pounds of Omolene #500® horse feed to maintain the same condition. So, when you take into account the lower feeding rate and figure out how much it actually costs to feed your horse, you may be surprised.
 
If oats are $12.50 per 50-pound bag, the cost to feed 7 pounds per day is $1.75. If Omolene #500® horse feed is $20.50 per 50-pound bag, it costs $2.05 per day to feed 5 pounds. So, it looks like oats are cheaper, right?
 
Not really. If you add a fat supplement, some vitamins and minerals and lysine to those oats to try and provide the same level of nutrition as in 5 pounds of Omolene #500® horse feed, those supplements will cost you at least 50 cents per day or more, especially if you are trying to get the same level of vitamin E, which can be expensive. Being conservative, when you add 50 cents’ worth of supplements, you are now at a daily feed cost of $2.25 for oats and supplements. 
 
What a deal. Better and more consistent nutrition, more diverse fuel sources, less chance of over- or under-supplementation of various nutrients, in an extremely palatable formula, all for less money. Purina® Omolene #500® horse feed, as it comes out of the bag, provides excellent nutritional support for top performance horses.