Canada produces about 3 million acres of oats annually, making Oats (Avena sativa L.) the third most widely grown cereal crop in Canada, behind wheat and barley. Although oat has wide adaptation and can be grown across Canada, it is best adapted to moist fertile environments and is not widely grown in the drier regions of the prairies. Oat was an important feed crop for the early settlers on the prairies, who used horses as the main source of power for farming and transportation. Over the years, several factors have contributed to the relative importance of oat compared to other grain crops: size and makeup of the livestock industry, popularity and value of pulse and oilseed crops, and an increased interest in oat in the human food market.
Oat production acres show a slight upward trend in harvested acres in the most recent twenty-year period. This trend is attributable to increased demand from the United States food market, and to an increasing demand in the livestock market, including the recreation horse feed market.
Oats can be used as a feed for livestock but are also as an important food ingredient. Oats are known to be a functional food and provide a specific nutritional and health benefit. The beta-glucan in oat, which is a form of soluble dietary fibre, is reported to lower blood cholesterol and possess anti-oxidant attributes. In addition to the conventional markets for oat and the increasing interest in its functional food properties, niche markets are developing for the hog and cattle industries.