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Safe horse feed storage: How to prevent loss through staleness, mould, vermin & accidents

Nourishing a horse with good quality feed plays a large part in maintaining it in good health – so it is important that it is kept in a way that will maintain its nutritional value. This is because unless horse feed is stored correctly, even good quality ingredients will deteriorate.

Most feedstuffs that are fed to horses, such as oats, barley, alfalfa, chaff and equine mixes, will go mouldy or stale after just one week if the sack that it is stored in is left open to air and dampness – which is why horse feed manufacturers generally recommend that their products are stored in airtight containers.

Another very important reason to store feed well is to prevent a horse or pony gaining access to it and gorging themselves. The consequences of this can cause equine colic, laminitis or even death if a pony should get in and eat a large amount of dried sugar beet.

Feed should also be stored in a way that prevents vermin such as rats and mice getting into it. Rats and mice do not just eat up the feed causing a financial impact, they can also spread disease and infections to a horse or pony too.


Dry, well ventilated, clean & tidy storage
Storage areas for equine feed should be kept dry, well ventilated, clean and tidy. This is because keeping the feed storage area swept clean will make it less attractive to mice and rats. Placing mice and rat traps in your feed room or keeping a stable cat are other ways of keeping the rodent population down – although many more humane options are also available.

Oxidation (a result of exposure to air and light) leads to a breakdown of nutrients in grain rations. So, while you have to watch that sacked grain doesn’t become moist and mouldy, you also have to keep moisture out of the feed bins by using tight-fitting lids.

Trash cans are a popular storage option, with the possible problem of condensation on the lids of metal cans, so for this reason plastic is the better choice. Plastic cans are inexpensive, can be washed easily, and hold between 50 and 100 pounds of grain.

Sacks of equine feed should also be stored out of direct sunlight to prevent moisture loss through condensation and caking of ingredients. They should also be stacked on pallets to help keep damp and moisture out. Placing them on pallets will also keep them off damp ground and allow some air to circulate underneath. Keeping feed sacks away from damp external walls is a very good idea too.

This arrangement will also increase the chances of spotting any tell-tale little signs of mouse or rat activity, such as if any small piles of grain start to appear under and around the pallets. If you buy many sacks of horse feed at one time in bulk, stack these so that you can see when the expiry, sell by, or best before date is, as this will ensure that the oldest feed is used first, avoiding wastage.

Storing opened sacks of horse feed
Once sacks of feed have been opened, we should always keep them in a rat and mouse proof container, with galvanised feed bins or dustbins an ideal solution for this. Take care to tightly reseal any tubs of equine feed supplements to retain their freshness. It may be a good idea to store plastic tubs of supplements inside a metal container because as previously stated, mice and rats will often make very easy work of chewing through plastic containers.

Some horse owners choose to store their feed in plastic dustbins or trash cans – but rats and mice will eventually chew their way into these, so regular inspections should always form part of your weekly if not daily routine. If you do use one of these vessels to store your feed, always use up the old feed and clean the bin before adding any fresh new stock – first in first out (FIFO) is a good policy to adopt here and will help you to minimise the risk of mould developing.

One ‘make do and mend’ solution that will also help to keep things fresh is to use an old broken down open top chest freezer. That said, as these large lidded troughs are usually airtight, do make sure that there is no chance of a child falling in – or even the stable cat getting locked inside!

A full risk assessment may seem a little overkill, but they have been known to save lives and is much easier than dealing with serious injury or death as a result of an easily preventable accident. As well as the prevention of invasion by unwelcome pests, curious children and greedy cats – the feed storage area should be secure so that there is less chance of a horse or pony getting into it and clearing out your feed stocks.

Safe horse feed storage in five easy steps:

  1. Keep it dry – Store feed in airtight containers, be wary of condensation on warmer days – avoid damp ground and direct sunlight.
  2. Keep it fresh – Remember the ‘First in, first out’ rule, clean your storage area before adding new stock.
  3. Keep it high – Having feed raised off the ground to make spotting signs of mouse or rat activity easier.
  4. Keep it safe – Make sure your feed bin is properly secured. Consider conducting a risk
  5. Keep it secure – a locked storage bin means there is less chance of a horse or pony
    getting into it and clearing out your feed stocks.

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Article contributed by Andrew Wilkinson, International Petfood magazine.



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