Nine Steps to a Better Feed Room

The best, most convenient feed rooms are organized, accessible, and easy to keep clean. That's important enough if you only have one or two horses, but once the numbers start increasing, these elements become imperative. Here are nine features--major and minor--that can make your feed room a safer and healthier place for you and your horses.

1. A sealed, clean concrete floor "Pests can come through a wood or dirt floor," says Scott Tarter, owner and manager of Twin Lakes Farm in Bronxville, N.Y. "Plus, you can powerwash and clean concrete." An added feature, he says, is to install a drain in your floor.

2. Parasite proof Plug all holes and cracks and cover windows and vents with screening to keep out rodents and bugs. Some people employ barn cats to take care of crawly critters, but beware that cat food stored in the feed room attracts rodents, warns Christine Skelly, PhD, associate professor of adult equine extension programs at Michigan State University.

3. Reduce the humidity In areas with stretches of high humidity, vent your feed room to prevent feed from getting moldy, Tarter recommends. "Ours has a screened vent ridge along the side. Fresh air flows in and out, but not flying pests," he adds.

4. Practical feed storage What works best partly depends on the type of feed used, weather conditions, how secure the feed room is from rodents, and personal preference.

"Metal containers are best," says Skelly. "Wood can be eaten through by rodents, as can plastic and rubber containers." Because metal can condensate during hot, humid conditions, feed should be used up and replaced within two or three weeks.

"I disagree with the choice of metal containers," Tarter says. "I believe that commercial grade plastic is the best container type as it can be cleaned and sanitized more thoroughly."

Keep feed unopened in the bags it comes in, says Tarter. It's clean, easy, and avoids the old-feed-at-the-bottom-of-the-bin syndrome. It's also handy for sweet feed, which can become hard and difficult to get out of bins in cold weather. Open bags are poured into the feed cart, which is made of commercial grade plastic with three compartments and a sealed locking top. Tarter notes that to safely store feed this way, the room must be rodent- and horse-proof and bags should be placed on wood pallets, not directly on the floor, as they could absorb moisture and spoil the contents. "Be sure to move the older bags of feed to the front as the feed gets used, otherwise, bags in the back or on the bottom could sit there for long periods, getting broken and the feed spoiled," says Tarter. "First in, first out; last in, last out."

There can be a silo installed outside next to the feed room wall, with a shoot that goes through the wall and into the feed room. "A truck delivers the feed, which is blown in at the top and dispensed from the bottom," says Tarter, "so you never have old feed. Not only is it cheaper to buy feed this way, you don't have feed bags to dispose of. Some distributors will give you the silo for free if you agree to buy feed from them for a year."

The downside: Sweet feed and senior feed, which have higher moisture contents, can get sticky in silos. "They generally work best for pellets and dry feed," Tarter says.

5. Easy in, easy out "Set up your bulk feeding where the feed truck can easily deliver feed during all types of weather conditions," suggests Skelly.

"Make sure the access door is wide enough for bags of feed facing left to right on a hand truck to pass through, so when feed is delivered, they come in easily," adds Tarter. "When it doesn't, the feed companies will deliver to the edge of the door and someone else will have to carry everything into the room. The feed cart or wheelbarrow must also be able to pass easily though the door."

6. Individual needs Devise a rack or shelf system with labeled areas for each horse that holds a pre-mixed supply of each horse's supplements, packaged in daily servings, Tarter advises. "We use an outside pre-packaging company that ships monthly. Supplements are fresh and formulated for each client's horse with the directions of the veterinarian and input from management. No mixing or measuring at feeding time. You just open and toss them in. It is a time- and labor-saver, and eliminates supplement mis-feeding."

7. Electricity "It's helpful to have power and light in the feed room," Tarter states. Not only for those short winter days, but at odd times when you need to grind up pills or mix medications. "As with all electrical wiring in barns, our feed room electric is wired in conduit with sealed fixtures to avoid dust and moisture intrusion," he says.

8. A little refrigerator "This is very handy," Tarter says, "for storing medications that must be refrigerated and dispensed in the feed."

9. A door that can be locked "Open feed rooms can be tempting for theft, or an uneducated or well-meaning person feeding a horse because it 'looks hungry,' " Skelly says.

Adds Tarter, "Some horses are on a specific diet and don't tolerate certain feeds very well. It's a way of monitoring who is feeding what to which horses. Also, a door that closes securely keeps out pests and loose horses."

About the Author

Marcia King

Marcia King is an award-winning freelance writer based in Ohio who specializes in equine, canine, and feline veterinary topics. She's schooled in hunt seat, dressage, and Western pleasure.

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