Naked oats

Oat decortication improves its utilization by dairy cattle

Alvaro Garcia

Oats (Avena sativa L.) are a very common cereal grain both used in human nutrition as well as a livestock feed. It has some agricultural advantages over other small grains such as wheat and rye, since it tolerates more cooler, wetter regions and acidic soils, doing better in temperate regions of the world. It has lower summer heat requirements and greater tolerance to rain than other cereals and it is thus well adapted to Northwestern Europe.

Oats is an annual crop and can be planted in autumn (late summer harvest) or spring (early autumn harvest). In Europe, its use in dairy cattle feeding has increased recently, and it has been particularly well adapted to organic farming systems. The protective coating of the grain or pericarp consists of structural carbohydrates of difficult digestion and as a result poor nutritional value.

To enhance its nutritional value, oats need to be processed to disrupt this outer coating and allow enzymes and microorganisms access to the nutrients in the endosperm and germ. These processes are usually through physical methods which involve either grinding, rolling, or decortication. Decortication, also called dehulling, exposes the more digestible portions of the grain which constitute approximately 68-72% of the total weight.

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Processing methods for oats: rolling, pelleting, and steam-flaking

Ishaya U. Gadzama & Fernando Diaz

Oat grain has been proposed as a cost-effective source of energy for dairy cows. Oats have a high proportion of hull, accounting for up to 25% of the whole oat weight. This high content of fiber protecting the groat reduces its energy content compared with other cereals such as barley or wheat. Thus, several processing methods can be used to break the hull and improve grain digestibility.

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