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!

37 Replies to “Storing Horse Feed for Freshness”

  1. Can you discuss weevils… details about what they are, how they get in feed, how to get rid of them.

  2. 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.

    1. I have a hard time keeping a bag of feed fresh because I have one miniature horse that only eat 2 cups a day. I wish they would make half size bags because usually halfway through the bag is when I start seeing it get moldy.

      1. For minis I buy the 50lb bags ahead and store laying down in totes especially in winter so I do not have to race out in snow to get more. Right now I have 2 bags. 1 in a Rubbermaid trash bin with locking top and 1 laying down in a tote. (Up on wood in case of any potential water) I have not had any issues. I found the metal trash cans can condensate.

  3. 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.

    1. What are some ways to dispose of old molded feed so the horses don’t eat it? I worry about them getting a hold of the molded feed if I don’t dispose of it properly.

      1. Hello Leslie, Thanks for the question. We’d suggest bagging it up in garbage bags and placing it in your trash for removal from your property as soon as possible. If need be, you can store the trash in a closed room in your barn, or in your garage, until your trash day comes.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. The metal feed containers should be stainless steel, copper or aluminum to be safe.

    1. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

      Megan C.

    2. One thing that I did to ensure a tight fit on the metal trash can is put duct tape around the top of the can. When you put the lid on it is a very tight fit.

  7. 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 🙂

    1. 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.

  8. 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,

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. 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??

    1. 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!

  10. I’m in Louisiana I used a non working freezer with a good deal for many years for feed in an uninsulatef barn for many years with no problems. Now with only one horse I use an ice chest that holds one bag. Even with heat & humidity have had no problems.

  11. I left a bag of TC senior grain in my trunk for about 4 days when temps were 80-90°. The feed has nearly no smell now, but otherwise looks normal. I am used to the strong sweet smell…could it have gone bad?

    1. Hi Lj,
      Aroma in feed is generally the result of compounds which are released from the feed into the air over time. These aromatic compounds tend to be heat sensitive, meaning they release slower in cold temperature and faster at higher temperature. Being in a trunk at those temperatures for 4 days may have caused the aromatic compounds to essentially evaporate. I would be cautious in using the feed as those temperatures might also encourage mold growth, so you would need to examine the feed carefully before using.

      Best of luck!
      Roy J.

  12. Hello I have been running into problems during the warmer times of the year with loosing feed due to mold forming we store our feed in plastic garbage cans in the tack room. And clumps of mold have formed along the sides of the containers different times what is the best way to prevent this from happening we used Stock and Stable feed also we use Triumph also for 1 horse

    1. Hi Paul,
      Sorry to hear you are having storage issues. A few additional things to try, if you haven’t yet, elevate the plastic bin off the floor. This can help with any fluctuation of ground temperature. Also a big factor to feed quality can be the location in which the bin is sitting in your barn. If it’s in the hottest part, this can contribute to the mold development during hotter months. Just a few things to assess as you try to eliminate this problem.

      Best of luck!

  13. I have always kept my horse feed in its original bag, inside a clean metal can that sits up on blocks of wood inside my barn. The can is not exposed to any weather or moisture and always secured with a bungee cord. This week we had a lot of rain followed by a few days of 90 degree weather followed by a 50 degree drop in temperature. Today when I opened the can, I noticed immediately that the inside walls of the can and the plastic of the bag were damp. I scooped some feed out and it was very moldy. Yesterday, it was fine. What caused this to happen ? I’ve never in 40 years had this happen. What can I do to prevent it from happening again ?

    1. Hi TJ,
      Thank you for your question regarding the situation with feed in a plastic bag inside a metal container (probably sealed quite tightly) and the swings in temperature and humidity. Humidity is most likely the key culprit here. With the long period of high temperature and rain, the air inside the can was humid and the feed itself absorbed some moisture from the air. The sudden drop in temperature caused the condensation and the presence of free water, which triggers mold very quickly. This is a really big challenge in even large metal feed storage bins they are not ventilated quite well to allow air movement. Sight unseen, a little tough to make recommendation, but improving air movement where the feed is stored to allow humidity to equalize w/o condensing on the metal surface is about the best option. I expect you use the metal can to protect from rodents etc. You might have to put some small holes in the can to allow air movement?

      Best wishes,

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