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Oats – More Protein or More Starch?

barley EMS Horse feed Laminitis oats

People often tell us they are feeding oats for protein.

Oats and barley can be useful additions to your horse’s feeds, especially in winter but not for their protein content.

Oats in particular are very palatable and easily digested.

As you can see from the comparisons, both oats and barley are actually quite LOW in protein while being HIGH in starch. They are not only low in protein but of the various amino acids that make up the protein; in the oats they are low in some of the essential ones. In other words as far as horses go it is LOW quality protein. Both oats and barley are also low in B Vitamins.

Be aware that starch is a ‘polysaccharide’ ie ‘multiple sugar molecules’ linked together as a carbohydrate. Starch can be used as an energy source for hard working horses and will also contribute to weight-gain.

Think about it before feeding either to horses who have EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome), Laminitis or those who are not in hard work. Think really hard before feeding either to any ponies. Both will promote weight gain due to their high caloric content.

They are both nice and low in potassium (approx 0.5%) but they also, along with all examples listed, have less calcium than phosphorous so if you are feeding them consistently in hard feeds, make sure you add XtraCal (or AlleviateC) to help balance this up. The old-timers used to feed Lucerne for this purpose, but as many horses on ‘cool season’ grasses react adversely to the addition of Lucerne to their diet, it isn’t always appropriate.

If your horse has lost topline or had a nutritional setback and you wish to add quality protein without any starch, a good option is to feed ShapeUp** for 8-10 weeks. It has an excellent amino acid profile for horses. Premium MVA (Minerals, Vitamins & Amino Acids) delivers a smaller, daily dose of the same amino acids necessary to maintain optimal health.

**(ShipShape in UK and Australia)
PIC:These comparisons are from ‘Feedipedia’

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