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Annual oat exports to the horse industry have declined by more than 700 thousand tonnes in the last 20 years.
"Oats are just not being used to the previous levels in feed rations for horses, and we've found there are a number of reasons why that has happened," says Bill Wilton, Ile des Chene area producer and POGA President. "One of course is convenience, and the second is that the feed manufacturers are low cost providers, and they're going to use the lowest priced combination of ingredients they can use."
He says their research shows that American horse owners still prefer oats over alternative feed ingredients, such as distillers dried grains.
"The consumers, the people who buy the oats for the horses, are very receptive to oats and are in fact looking for them in the feed. So we've come to understand this will partially have to be a pull-through process where the demand from the consumers will require the feed manufacturer to use more oats," explains Wilton.
Earlier this month, the federal government invested $100 thousand in POGA to help with marketing Canadian oats to the equine market.
"Our initial foray with this is going to be marketing to horse owners," he says. "And we have a lot going for us as oats are already viewed as safe, natural and healthy, so we're most of the way home. We just have to make sure the oats are available."
The vast majority of oats consumed in North America are grown in southern Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan.