Storing Horse Feed for Freshness

Welcome to July!  We are in the full swing of summer with heat and humidity in many regions of North America.  The higher temperature and moisture levels common this time of year can make feed freshness a challenge, requiring extra attention to how feed is stored.  Read on for a few tips on storing horse feed for freshness, and see how well your barn is set up to store feed. 

Many of us purchase feed by the bag and transfer the contents into a container which is kept in a feed room or designated area of the barn or shed.  The container that feed is kept in as well as the location of the container play an important role in how well the feed stays fresh. 

If possible, use of a waterproof, seal-able container to store your feed.  The container should be able to keep pests such as mice and insects from enjoying an “All You Can Eat Buffet” on your dime.  A waterproof container will insure the feed stays dry if there is unexpected water leakage into the area.

The location that the feed bin or container is kept is also important.  If you have a designated feed room or area in your facility, check to see that it is not exposed to unnecessary moisture such as a leak in the roof or sweating pipes overhead.  Elevating the bin off the floor will help keep feed dry should there be rain-in or minor flooding.  Also, check to see if your feed bin is sitting in the hottest part of your barn or shed.  For metal sided buildings, this could be the South or West wall which receive the strongest of the sun’s rays and tend to hold heat longer.  Relocating the bin to a cooler or dryer area will go a long way in keeping your feed fresh. 

Whenever possible, try to practice inventory management of feed in the form of FIFO; an acronym which stands for First In First Out.  FIFO is a method to manage the freshness of perishable goods such as produce, baked goods or dairy products.  The premise can also be applied to feed, where feed already in the bin is fed prior to the feed that was just purchased.  Also, between feed rotations, periodically wash and thoroughly dry the container to help get rid of build-up at the bottom.  Using this method can ensure that the feed you are scooping has not aged beyond its ideal shelf life.  

Taking some time to check these few steps will go a long way in keeping your horse feed fresh. Stay tuned for a future post regarding factors that impact the shelf life of your feed! Until then, happy riding!

19 thoughts on “Storing Horse Feed for Freshness

  1. It is a good idea to put the bag the feed is purchased in into your storage container. Most feed bags are paper with a moisture liner. This assures you there will be no left overs from your last bag.

  2. My name is John and I run a non profit horse shelter and we feed five diffrent types of Nutrena feed. As part of our quality control we place a one ounce sample from each lot number in a small zip lock bag with the tag off of that bag . We date it and whoever takes the sample put there name on it and we keep the sample for one month. WE also feed by weight, not by the scoop.

  3. Hey Everyone – Great comments & suggestions for anyone managing a feed room! I’ll add the topics of bugs in feed and weighing (not just scooping) the feed to the list for future blog posts! Thanks ~ Gina T.

  4. Your picture shows the “plastic” garbage cans…. I have been told that the materials used to make the bins can leach into the feed. I was advised to use only the tin-type garbage cans…… your thoughts???? Thanks.

    • Hi Elaine – Great observation. I’m not aware of any research behind plastic leaching into feed from the bin, but it could be possible. I actually line my bins just to make it easier to clean out after rounds of feed, so that’s one possibility to prevent, or of course you absolutely could use the metal garbage cans you mentioned. If I find any research on the topic, I will post it back on to here for you to see!

      Thanks ~ Megan C.

    • Hi Mary-

      Thanks for stopping by the Feed Room! You ask a great question – to keep the pests and critters out of your feed, you definitely want the lid to fit nice and snug. Critters like raccoons are notorious for ‘breaking in’ to even the most sophisticated containers! If you are having trouble securing the lid, you might consider adding a weight on top for extra security. Or, depending on the configuration of the trash can, you might try a pinch-type of device like a cooler clip or a clamp. I hope this helps – if you have more questions, please let us know!

      Thanks~ Megan C.

  5. I left bags of feed in my car for a few days in 90 – 100 temps. Should I just throw it away? Afraid to make horse sick.

    • Hi Sandra,

      Horse feed is manufactured to withstand some exposure to extremes of temperature. This year has been testing that process in many parts of the country! The two issues that extended exposure to high temperature creates are potential fat rancidity and mold. Textured feeds have a lower tolerance for extended high temperatures than pelleted feed.

      To understand if the feed is safe for your horse, you will need to visually examine and smell the feed. If it smells normal and appears normal, it should be OK to use.
      If there is any fat rancidity, the horses will generally not consume as they are much more sensitive to the off aroma than you or I might be.

      If there is any visible mold or clumping, do NOT feed it and return it to your dealer. You are correct in being cautious.

      Best~
      Megan C.

  6. hi Megan C. Is there any consideration and differences on the location of feed room ? for example location of feed room near/inside stable building and outside stable building. is there any difference? thanks 🙂

    • Hi Hafiz,

      Thanks for your question! A feed room set up as an interior room to a building with ventilation and insulated walls and ceiling will help to reduce temperature swings. A climate controlled room (heating and air conditioned) would be even better. But most importantly frequent rotation of the feed in your bin(s) is the best way to insure your on-farm feed supply stays fresh.

      Hope this helps~
      Megan C.

  7. Hi Megan,

    I bought some sweet feed that has a vinegar odor. I was wondering if that’s a sign that it’s gone bad, or if that’s normal with sweet feeds since I haven’t bought them before. There was no manufacture date on the bag to check for age. Other than the aroma, it looks normal to me with no clumping or signs or mold.

    Also, since I only have one horse and have had a problem with grain mites, I was wondering if bagging and refrigerating grain in ziplock bags would be a good way to make it last. I keep reading that grain needs to breath in order to stay fresh, so I was wondering if this storage method would shorten the shelf life by by keeping air out, or prolong the shelf like by keeping it cooler. Any input would be appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Dana

    • Hi Dana! Good questions. As for the aroma of the feed I would question the vinegar odor. It could be a sign of heterolactic fermentation, which is a type of lactic acid fermentation in which sugars (e.g. lactose, glucose) are fermented to a range of products.

      You may want to check with your feed dealer or manufacturer as to the products normal aroma. They may also be able to help you locate a date code on the product.

      Nutrients in feed can begin to break down when exposed to sunlight, heat, moisture and oxygen. Storing your feed in airtight containers will help maintain freshness. I have also heard of horse owners storing high fat feeds in zip lock refrigerator bags to help maintain freshness.

      Good luck ~ Gayle R.

    • Hi Tina,

      Thanks for your question. The feed bag itself likely won’t have a date of manufacture, however, the date the feed was produced should be printed on the tag and/or the tape at the bottom or top of the bag. Each company does it a little differently, so you may want to contact the company if you’re unable to find it in either location. Hope this helps!

      Megan C.

  8. can a freezer to store feed be kept outside as long as the seal is good and is lockable?

    We do not have any inside storage available – and wondering if this would be a ok way to go??

    • Hi Dan,
      That’s a very interesting question. Theoretically it could work as a storage option, but would need to be in a cool, dry location like inside a barn somewhere. But I would be very concerned about using it as a storage option outside, as it could have the reverse affect and become very warm inside if exposed to the sun. Also, if any moisture were to work its way in, you could have an issue with your feed becoming moldy rather quickly. I would strongly advise against this option as there are likely too many variables that could come into play. Good luck!

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