Oats, traditionally grown in the spring as a grain crop, can also be planted in the summer as a late season forage, providing a feed alternative for horse owners and livestock producers short on hay or pasture.

Based on five years of Ohio State University Extension research, oats planted in late July or early August can be grazed well into winter.

“We have consistently experienced production of 4 to 7 tons of dry matter with an average of 18% protein. In some trials we were still getting 11% protein with oats grazed as late as March,” said Stan Smith, an OSU Extension program assistant in Fairfield County. “The average production of hay harvested from perennial forages in Ohio is less than half of that. Without including land or harvest costs, the oats produced at that tonnage come at a total cost of less than $25 per ton, even at today’s fertilizer prices. Hay, by comparison, is presently valued at $60 to $70 or more per ton.”

Not all forages–or horses–are created equal. Ask your veterinarian if oats are appropriate for your horse.
With forage production in Ohio and surrounding states down this season due to a spring cold spell and ongoing dry conditions, producers are searching for alternative forages that are easy to establish and won’t break the bank.

Planting oats in the summer with the idea of grazing the crop was never thought of as an option in Ohio until Fairfield County Soil and Water Conservation District engineering technician Curt Stivison made a trip to the Heart of America Grazing Conference in 2001. There, Stivison learned about late-planted oats research through the University of Illinois and decided to bring the concept back