The Prairie Provinces of Canada yield huge quantities of grains, including oats (Avena sativa) that are used for both animal feed and human consumption. In fact, there are four different grades of oat: feed, forage, hulless and milling. Traditionally, oats were grown much more when horses powered equipment, as they needed a high-quality grain for food. Today, power machines do the work, and the use of oats has spread well beyond their initial equine feeding purpose.
Feed Oat Varieties
Feed oats' seed head grains can be harvested and used in both animal feed or for human consumption. The grains comprise one-quarter of their weight in hull, which makes them unsurpassed as a food source for cattle, horses and poultry. Humans can use these same feed oat types to make flour or other products, but removal of the hull generally reveals a germ (called "groat") that is smaller and less desirable than milling oat varieties. In Alberta, four varieties of feed oats include "AC Mustang," "Cascade," "Lu" and "Waldern."
Forage Oat Varieties
Forage oats are those grown for overall production of plant biomass material. Their seed heads may not be of high quality or yield, but the stems and leaves of the oat plants are more valuable as a forage food for cattle, or the plants cut to make straw. Two varieties used as a forage type in Alberta are "Murphy" and "CDC Baler."
Hulless Oat Varieties
Hulless oats do not produce grains that lack a hull, but rather a seed head with a loose hull that readily separates from the groat when crops are combined at harvest. Much like forage oats, the groat is acceptable to use as either animal feed or as human food products. "Cascade" is often regarded as a hulless variety (also a forage variety) since it is harvested at various stages of development. Others include "Bullion," "Boudria S," "AC Belmont," "Lee Williams" "and "Navaro." Once the hull is removed from the oat grain, its weight is reduced by up to 25 percent, according to the Government of Alberta's Agriculture and Rural Development division.
Milling Oat Varieties
Milling oats are the highest quality, often with a groat that is especially high in B-glucan, making it a high-energy grain perfect for human consumption. Not only are milling oat varieties used in baked goods, snacks and crackers, but they are also used in bird feed. If the quality of milling oat isn't as high as hoped, they are simply regarded and treated as forage oats. Examples of milling oat varieties are "AC Morgan," "Derby," "Furlong," "Hi Fi," "Jordan," "Leggett," "Ronald," "CDC Dancer," "CDC Minstrel," "CDC Weaver," "CDC Orrin" and "SW Betania."