New Zealand just so happens to grow the best oats in the world. It’s not official (there’s no oat Olympics) but our combo of rich soil, fresh rainwater and the right amount of sun gives us a world-beating oat crop. High fives all round.
You can find reasonable amounts of oat crops in North Island however the vast majority are heavily concentrated towards the lower half of the South Island, specifically in Southland and South Canterbury, which is where our oats come from.
Southland is a great place for oat growing due to its location on the 46th Parallel, meaning the oats are blessed with cool damp winters and long sunlight hours in the summer. They love the rich moist soils that Southland offers as it enables the plant to put its roots down nice and deep for the drier summer months ahead. Once summer hits, this incredibly smart plant switches its energy stocks from growing big and strong to putting everything it has into seeds. That’s when we see the crop ‘browning off’ and preparing its nutrient enriched seeds for the upcoming harvest, which takes place in March and April.
Otis is proud to work closely with the NZ Oat Growers Group and around 70 diversified arable farmers. In an arable rotation system (crop rotations will vary considerably depending on the location), a farmer might typically rotate from pastureland for animal grazing to autumn-harvested oat for milling, followed by barley and then peas. This may be followed by a ryegrass seed crop, spring-feed wheat and then potatoes, before being returned to pasture. This healthy rotating cycle of farm management provides the soil with constant variants, whilst each crop will perform different duties. In the case of oats, they act as a natural 'catch crop' for excess Nitrogen that might be in the soil and prevent it from running off into waterways.
To this day, there is still just one company in New Zealand that mills these oats – Harraways in Green Island, Dunedin. It was founded in the 1860s during the gold rush, and has been catering to NZ’s oat needs ever since!