New Feed Oat For Dairy Farmers

“A grain that is essentially equal to barley for feeding to dairy cattle.”

– BRIAN ROSSNAGEL, CDC

You wouldn’t normally feed oats to dairy cows because the hulls aren’t digestible and the grain is low in energy content.

But say hello to CDC SO-I.

This new feed oat variety combines a high fat content with a mostly digestible hull, making it a viable alternative to corn and barley in dairy rations.

Because oats are cheaper to grow than other cereal grains, CDC SO-I, when fed instead of barley to dairy cows, can generate 82 cents to $1.13 more income per cow per day, according to studies at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre, where the variety originated.

The secret is in the hull and in the groat.

Normally, oat and barley hulls are largely indigestible (particularly for oats). But SO-I (a code for Super Oats number one) has a low-acid detergent lignin hull, making it more digestible than the traditional oat variety.

Also, the SO-I groat is higher in fat/oil content than other oats. That’s significant because fat has a higher energy density than either carbohydrates or starch. Feed an animal additional fat and it gets more energy.

Combine improved digestibility with higher energy and SO-I becomes a good candidate for dairy feed, especially since it costs less than barley, said Brian Rossnagel, a CDC oat and barley breeder in Saskatoon.

“When you feed that kind of material to ruminant animals, they get a considerable amount of value out of the hull as opposed to it just going in one end and out the other,” Rossnagel said.

“The combination of higher fat content in the groat with the more digestible hull gives you a grain that is essentially equal to barley for feeding to dairy cattle.

“The key is that this is something a little less costly for producers to grow and they can use it as an alternative in their dairy rations.”

Oat-fed cows may sometimes produce more milk than barley-fed animals, although that depends largely on feed management. Some studies suggest the butterfat content in oat-fed milk can be slightly lower than in other milk, according to David Christensen, Rossnagel’s colleague.

SO-I received registration throughout Canada in late 2006. Breeder seed was released to Super Oats Canada Ltd. for pedigreed seed development.

Limited quantities of certified seed were available this spring. More supplies should be available in 2011.

SO-I can also be beneficial for beef cattle. Recent trials by the Western Beef Development Centre found SO-I an excellent feed oat for backgrounding cattle. As an added benefit, it does not require processing before feeding because of its low-lignin hull.

Rossnagel said SO-I performs as well or even a bit better than standard oat varieties such as Derby.

But it has “absolutely no” rust resistance, making it less than ideally suited for Manitoba or southeastern Saskatchewan, where crown rust in oats can be a perennial problem, he said.

SO-I is also not suitable for milling because of its high groat fat content and relatively low milling yield, the Western Beef Development Centre concluded. [email protected]

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