Horse Hay and Feed Storage: How Long is Too Long?

Buying hay and feed in bulk quantities can save money up front. Find out how long you can store hay, grains, and feed.

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Horse Hay and Feed Storage: How Long is Too Long?
Each feed or grain bag should include a coded date. Once deciphered, it can tell you the content's packaging date. | Photo: Clair Thunes, PhD
Q: I’d like to save money by buying horse hay and feed in bulk. How long can I store each, and is spoilage a concern?

A: Spoilage is more of a concern with in commercial feed than with stored hay.

Storing Hay

You can store hay indefinitely if the stack is managed correctly; although, in humid climates, using hay within three years of harvest is ideal. Hay growers need to bale it at correct moisture levels because if it’s baled too damp the hay will generate heat, which leads to molding. Barn storage, especially long term, is best as it will prevent damage from weather. Rodents and other animals should be kept out and hay should be stored off the floor. Bales places directly on concrete could sweat and, if placed on the ground, might wick up moisture, which could result is losing up to 50% of your bottom bales. Placing hay on pallets or a thick layer of old hay or straw is recommended.

Long-term hay storage will result in some nutritional losses. Most will occur in the first couple of months with overall dry matter losses up to about 5% in the first year. After the first couple of months losses in protein and energy are minimal such that the energy and protein profile of hay that is a year or two old will be fairly similar to when it was about six months old

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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