Oats are commonly used for human and livestock consumption. Currently, the market prefers white hulled oats (pictured on the right) with a high test weight for use as equine feed. Plant breeding programs in the Midwest U.S. produce both white and yellow hulled oats that meet industry standards; however, there appears to be a market preference for white hulled oats. The perception for this preference is that the horse industry demands white oats.
This two part study, conducted by the University of Minnesota, aimed to determine if horse owners and managers, or the horses, had a preference for a specific hull color.
To accomplish the first objective, a 13-question survey regarding oat use and preference among horse owners and managers was administered for 6-weeks through the University of Minnesota Horse Extension Team. The 801 survey respondents did not have a visual preference for white or yellow hulled oats. For individuals who purchased oats, the most important quality was cleanliness, with color and test weight being the least important.
The second objective consisted of two horse feeding trials. The horses did express a preference for yellow hulled over white hulled oats. Although horse owners and managers did not indicate a color preference for oats, horses preferred yellow oats.
The lack of preference from horse owners and managers suggests that others within the oat supply chain are driving the market to categorize white oats as the premium horse feed.