Feed and Hay Storage And Preservation On the Horse Farm
Moldy or contaminated feed or hay can be harmful to horses. Their stomachs are very sensitive, unlike cows, who can digest these types of feed and hay.
In most parts of the country, hay can only be grown during temperate months of the year. In order to keep hay as fresh and palatable as possible while storing it, it is extremely important to prevent mold, deteriorating nutrients and preventing heat build up and combustion. All this begins with proper harvesting of the hay crop.
At the time of cutting, hay naturally contains about 80% moisture. Curing it in the field will reduce the moisture levels at which it can be stored safely, which would be at about 16-20% moisture content. If the hay is baled with too musch moisture, considerable amounts of heat will be generated causing mold to grow or, in extreme cases, cause spontaneous combustion. If it heats up to 150-175 degrees F, it can burst into flames, causing a great danger to the building. When stacking the hay, the best thing to do if you come across any wet or hot bales, is to put them aside and spread them out where it is protected from rain to allow it to dry.
The best place to store hay would be in a separate building instead of where horses are housed, making sure it is leak-proof. Since there is moisture in the ground, it is best to place bales on wooden palates, loose straw or crushed gravel.
When stacking hay, air should freely circulate around the bales to evaporate moisture. This can be done by alternating bales in each layer, leaving narrow gaps between rows. Never stack bales tightly or all the way up to the ceiling. The bales can then be loosely covered with tarps to prevent dust from accumulating, which can cause respiratory problems in horses. Keep in mind that nutrients can be lost when the hay is exposed to air, sunlight and extreme weather. Even with proper storage, hay loses about 5% of it's nutrients each month. It is a good idea to have the hay analyzed in order to determine if and what supplements the horses would require.
After opening a bale and before feeding it to the horses, check through it. Sometimes, things such as blister beetles, snakes and possibly a bird or other animal may be found in a bale of hay. Discard the bale immediately.
Blister beetles in particular, when ingested, can kill a horse. All it takes is a few. They are usually found in late summer cuttings of alfalfa, when the flowers are in bloom.
Storage of Grain and Supplements
Mold can develop on grains and supplements also when exposed to moisture. It is suggested to keep the feed in a cool and dry environment, keeping the containers closed tight to keep the moisture and humidity out, as well as insects and rodents. If the feed is exposed to humidity, fungi can begin to grow, which is dangerous to horses. Fungi are often invisible and hard to detect. The best way to know for sure is to have it tested. If fungi is suspected in the feed, the best thing to do is not feed it to the horses.
Stored grain usually lasts a few months when stored in the right conditions. Commercial feeds usually have expiration dates. Pay close attention to these dates. The ideal would be to keep enough grain on hand that can be used within no more than a few weeks, one month at the most.
Rodents can be found around barns, especially where feed is stored. If rodents get into the feed, they can contaminate the grain, which can cause EPM (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis) or leptospirosis in horses. EPM can develop from ingesting feed containing opossum feces. Leptospirosis is contracted by ingesting contaminated feed containing mammal urine. If feed is soiled with pest urine or feces, discard it immediately.
It is best to always store feed in containers that are tightly covered, inaccessible to rodents. The best type of container would be metal lined, like a trash can, or even an old freezer can do.
Storing hay and feed properly on the horse farm will help maintain feed palatability and nutrient content, as well as avoiding moisture.