Although related, oats are easily distinguished from wheat and barley. Each plant grows a stalk with very upright, bluish green leaves. The end of the stalk ends in 40 to 50 very small branches. Each branch ends in a spikelet containing 1 or 2 oat seeds. When the seeds are mature, the plant begins to dry, turning a very light brown before harvest.


Most oats in Montana are harvested as livestock feed. Producers can feed the seeds as well as the straw. Montana is too far from the market for national human food consumption. However, recently some producers have begun marketing oats at a local level. Organic oats are especially valuable at a local level because oats are naturally gluten free, making them a good grain for people with gluten allergies or sensitivities.

Central Montana Oats

Scientific Name

Avena sativa

Growing Season

Planted mid-April to late May. Harvested mid-August to mid-September. Although there are varieties of winter oats (planted in the winter and harvested the next fall) these will not survive in Montana.


12,000 bushels in Judith Basin County. 1.188 million bushels in Montana.

Did You Know?

  • Depending on quality, a bushel of oats weighs between 36 and 42 pounds.
  • Oats prefer cooler, wetter conditions and tend to do best in Montana’s river bottoms and clay soil.