Spring Cleaning Your Feed Room

Spring Cleaning Your Feed Room

Spring is a great time for tidying, cleaning, and organizing your feed room before the summer heat sets in.

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

For those of us in milder states, spring is quickly turning in to summer. However, for many, trees are still leafing out and spring has only just arrived. No matter how far in to spring you are, there’s something about this season that begs action. This is a great time for tidying, cleaning, and organizing before the summer heat sets in.

So what to put on your spring to do list? The feed room is a great please to start.

Feed bins—If you have free standing feed bins they probably haven’t been pulled away from the wall and washed out all winter. Who knows what it living behind them (hopefully just spiders!) but it’s worth pulling them out and checking for evidence of rodent activity, and giving the area a good sweep. Check plastic trash cans used for storing feed for holes, because rats will chew holes in the bottoms of these bins. Wash cans out with dilute bleach, but make sure they’re dry before putting any feed in them.

If you empty feed in to bins, create a system where you keep the empty bag until your next bag is purchased. What for? Because the bag and accompanying tag have information on them that tell you important production information. If there is a feed recall you need to have this information to determine whether your batch of feed is affected. Without the bag you have no way of knowing and no proof. Bonus tip: Take a feed tag photo with your phone as a space saving solution.

Feed buckets—While you have the dilute bleach solution out give all your feed buckets a good scrub, and then keep going and disinfect your grooming brushes, too.

Supplements—Sort through supplements and make sure that none are past their use-by dates. And maybe your horse’s diet needs a spring clean, too! Take a moment to review supplement ingredients and notice whether you’re unnecessarily doubling up on any ingredients. Removing duplicative products is an easy way to declutter your feed room, potentially save money, and avoid over-supplementation. Also, create a system for organizing your supplements so that they’re easy to find and it’s clear which horse they belong to.

Make a measured feed scoop—Horses need to be fed by weight not volume, but I frequently hear from horse owners that weighing feed is too time consuming. But, if you plan appropriately, you only have to weigh it once. Take a box-type or cylindrical feed scoop or use a coffee can and weigh it on a digital kitchen scale, zeroing out the scale to account for the scoop’s weight. Then put one pound (or however much feed your horse requires) into the scoop and with a permanent marker draw a line on the inside of the scoop with the weight and the type of feed. Repeat this process for each type of feed you use, because they might account for different volumes in the scoop. You never have to weigh that feed again (unless you change feeds)—just fill to the premarked line and, voila, you know you have one pound (or whatever amount you marked) of that feed.

Water troughs—Empty and scrub your water troughs both in stalls and paddocks. Consider investing in gold fish for large water troughs to help keep down algae. Better yet, you might be able to get mosquito fish for free from your local university cooperative extension. These fish eat mosquito larvae, helping to keep down numbers of these disease transmitting pests.

Salt—Check and ensure that every horse has access to some form of salt. This might be a block, although horses often better utilize loose salt. Also make sure the salt is clean. Would you want to lick a block sitting in the corner covered in shavings or worse?

Hay barn—Rake up any extra hay that has built up on the floor of the barn over the winter. If this is good clean hay, feed it out. If musty or moldy, throw it away. Old clean hay can also make a great cover on the hay barn floor so that new deliveries of hay are not put directly onto the barn floor. If placed on a dirt floor the bottom bales can wick moisture up from the ground and if a concreate floor recently cut hay with higher moisture can sweat leading to mold.

If you use pallets for stacking hay check for broken pallets and replace or turn over as necessary to reduce hazards. If you are in charge of feeding hay consider creating a station where hay can be easily weighed prior to feeding. Weighing the hay you feed not only insures consistent nutrition for your horse but also allows you to plan feed usage and buy accordingly, so you’re less likely to run out.

Record Keeping

Once you’ve given everything a good scrub down and tidy turn your attention to organizing your record keeping. Here are some questions to ask when creating your records:

  • What would happen, heaven forbid, if you became incapacitated and unable to get to the barn?
  • Does anyone else know what exactly you are putting in to those premade plastic baggies you mix up every week?
  • How exactly would someone else know how to feed your horse in your unplanned absence?
  • What if you had to evacuate the barn in an emergency?
  • Do you know what hay your horse is eating? 

I frequently have clients who are not responsible for the hay portion of their horse’s diet and have no idea of the type of hay being fed let alone the amount. You need to know this information.

One of the great lessons Pony Club members learn is keeping a record book. Pony clubbers use this working document to keep track of all things relating to a horse’s management. This helps the pony clubber better understand the financial responsibility of horse ownership. Additionally, goal at higher Pony Club rating levels is to create a record anyone could refer to and take over a horse’s management. How easily could someone do that for you?

About the Author

Clair Thunes, PhD

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an independent equine nutrition consultant who owns Summit Equine Nutrition, based in Sacramento, California. She works with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses. 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 United Kingdom Pony Club. Today, she serves as the regional supervisor for the Sierra Pacific region of the United States Pony Clubs. As a nutritionist she works with all horses, from WEG competitors to Miniature Donkeys and everything in between.

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