Storing Horse Feed and Forage


Date: October 25th, 2012

Horse owners rely on storage and preservation in order to ensure that their horses are fed safe and healthy food all year long.

Hay Storage

The majority of the United States only has a few months out of the year that are suitable for hay harvest. To keep hay stored fresh, storage needs to focus on the prevention of mold development, heat buildup and combustion, and nutrient deterioration. According to Michael Collins, a former professor of agronomy at the University of Kentcuky, "Hay crops generally contain around 80% moisture at the time of cutting; field curing reduces moisture to levels (at which hay) can be safely stored. Hay cured to less than 16-20% moisture stores well with minimal problems of heating or mold growth." If the hay has too much moisture at the time of baling (25-35%), microbial activity can generate significant amounts of heat and in extreme cases, spontaneous combustion can occur.



Ventilation and air circulation are essential in hay lofts. If the hay is tightly packed to the ceiling, the potential for spontaneous combustion rises significantly. Also, without air flow dust can easily buildup in a hay loft and can cause respiratory problems for horses when ingested.

When stacking, always do so in a leak-free place. Place loose straw or pallets underneath the stack so that the bales are not in direct contact with dirt or concrete. Be sure that the bales are dry before stacking.

For outdoor hay stacks, use waterproof tarps that are securely tied-down. Frequently check the stack for moisture that may have found its way in.

Hay Vitamin Deterioration

Unfortunately, vitamin deterioration is inevitable and begins as soon as the forage is cut. Kathleen Crandell of Kentucky Equine Research says that "As much as 75% of carotenes (Vitamin A) diminish in the first 24 hours. Even under ideal storage circumstances, more than 5% of vitamins are lost each month..."

Grain Storage

Just like hay, moisture can spoil grain. Prevent moisture from coming in contact with grain by storing it in a tightly closed container in a cool, dry environment. A tight seal isn't just important for moisture and oxidation; insects and rodents would love the opportunity to steal some of the grain.

When grain is exposed to high humidity or moisture, it can lead to mycotoxin production and have severe health consequences for horses. Very small amounts of mycotoxins usually won't affect a horse and it is estimated that mycotoxin in present in over 80% of grains. The problem begins when the horse ingests larger quantities of the substance. In many instances, fungi are not visible to the human eye – even with a black light. The only way to know for sure that your grain isn't dangerous is to submit a sample to the lab. Never feed grain that has a moldy-look.

Nutrena Safe Choice

How long can grain be stored for?

The majority of feed companies designate a 30-60 day expiration date after the feed has been manufactured. If stored in ideal conditions, some feed can be safely kept for 4-6 months. Straight whole grains (such as uncrimped or unprocessed grains) can last for years if stored properly. As mentioned, moisture, temperature, oxidation, and rodent or insect infestation will significantly decrease storage time. Another rule of thumb – sealed bags last longer than opened bags.

Pest and Rodent Prevention

Use metal or hard plastic containers to store feed and protect it from insects and rodents. Forage or grain that contains rodent feces or urine should be discarded. Galvanized metal trash cans will deter most invaders if the lid is securely fastened. If using a metal trash can, place in a temperature controlled room to avoid condensation.

If using rat or mouse poison, place in an area away from horse feed. Traps can also be effective rodent deterrents.  

If your farm is also the home to chickens, ducks, small animals and other livestock, be sure that these animals can't access the feed.

Proper and safe storage of your horse's food is critical to his health. With a little preparation and planning, you can ensure that your horse is getting the best possible nutrition.


Have any questions? Comments? Leave a message below or visit your local CountryMax today!

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