Author: 800 CHAB NEWS/ Sask Ag and Food

Scientists at the University of Saskatchewan are looking into the development of a new variety of oat specially bred for the feed market, according to Dr. John McKinnon of the Department of Animal and Poultry Science.

"The Crop Development Centre has developed a new variety of oat. Currently, it is referred to as Low Lignin Hull High Oil Groat (LLH-HOG). That description encompasses its unique characteristics. You see, normally 20 to 25 per cent of the oat is comprised of the hull. The hull is typically high in lignin, which contributes to low digestibility, and thus, a lower energy value for oat relative to barley for ruminants.

"Cattle just don't gain as well on normal oat as they do on barley because of the hull's high lignin content. This new variety still has as much hull as other oats, but it is more digestible-more useable as an energy source."

The second component of this variety is the high-oil groat. The groat is the actual seed once the hull has been removed.

"The oil or fat content of the groat in this new product is slightly greater than eight per cent, whereas typical varieties only average five per cent. So it is a significant improvement in oil content. The higher the oil content, the more potential energy is available to the animal. The Crop Development Centre has focused on developing this line of oat with low lignin and high oil, and the Department of Animal and Poultry Science is where we looked at how it could be used in beef and dairy feeding."

This research effort is the fruit of the work of a number of participants, McKinnon explains. Specific funding came from Super Oats Canada and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food's Agriculture Development Fund, as well as from the University of Saskatchewan.

"The crop breeding work has been done by the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, particularly Dr. Brian Rossnagel. In the Department of Animal and Poultry Science, the work has been done by Dr. David Christensen, Vern Racz of the Prairie Feed Resource Centre, and I. There are also two graduate students working on the project.

"We have carried out studies on backgrounding calves using the facilities at the university feedlot in Saskatoon and at the Western Beef Development Centre in Lanigan. We looked at a finishing trial, where we compared this new oat to barley and corn. The results of the backgrounding study were particularly interesting. We found that cattle fed either the oat-based or a barley-based diet showed similar intakes and delivered equal performance in both average daily gain and feed conversions."

The oat-fed cattle in the backgrounding period gained every bit as much as the barley-fed cattle, says McKinnon, which indicates that this would be a product that would fit very nicely in backgrounding diets.

"The important part of this is that, agronomically, when you look at oat relative to barley or other cereals, the input costs aren't as high. As well, with this new variety, you are still getting the benefit of oat's typical high yield. So it is cheaper to grow this new line of oat than barley, and producers are getting the same performance with backgrounding cattle.