Spring is upon us! That means summer is just around the corner with longer, hotter days, and we cannot forget about the humidity! While this is an exciting time, we need to think about feed storage because the outside temperatures have an impact on feed’s shelf life. In hotter months, feed inventory needs to be rotated to keep feed fresh. Feed freshness influences intake and performance. Performance can be defined as how well an animal eats, grows, and produces on a feed. There are many factors that affect feed performance such as nutrient analysis, ingredients used, and age of the feed. This article is going to focus on the age of feed specifically looking at shelf life.
The shelf life of feed is the length of time a feed remains usable. Industry standards say that after milling, feed is good for 6 months in good storage conditions. (Note, I said industry standard, not Resaca Sun Feed’s standard). The main reason for this time restriction is that vitamins are not stable and begin to oxidize when mixed with other feed ingredients. This oxidation results in a decrease in vitamin levels in the overall feed. Vitamins are crucial for the health and performance of your livestock and are especially important for youngstock. We are relying on feed to provide the vitamins that livestock need, especially for those that aren’t grazing, like chickens and pigs.
There are other factors to account for when thinking about feed quality and freshness like temperature. Environmental factors play a huge role in feed freshness. Most of us store feed in some sort of non-temperature-controlled area like a pole barn, shed, or garage. Heat and humidity will impact feed freshness. Oxidation (which decreases feed quality) speeds up when it’s hot outside, and this affects palatability. When feed is less palatable, feed intake decreases. Humidity also plays a role because moisture will degrade feed and could cause feeds to mold if there’s not enough air flow. With summer around the corner, it’s time to consider how temperature impacts feed performance and to plan feed orders with temperatures in mind. When it’s hot and humid, try buying feed more frequently to prevent spoilage, and use pelleted feeds within 2 months in the summer.
Here are a few tips for keeping feed fresh in the heat:
- Keep feed under some sort of shelter like a pole barn, shed, or garage.
- Keep feed on a pallet to keep air moving underneath.
- Open super sacks for 2-3 days after the feed arrives. This lets the feed breathe for a few days and will reduce condensation. Close the bag after a few days of venting.
- Use feed within 2 months of purchasing in the summer and 3 months in the winter. I would strongly suggest not feeding a starter feed older than 3 months because we’re looking for optimum vitamin levels for young, quickly growing animals.
- Environmental temperatures play a major part in the shelf life of feed. In good storage conditions, feed is good for a maximum of 6 months. Old feed might look and smell fine, but vitamin levels are low or non-existent. As feed ages, other ingredients oxidize, and feed becomes less palatable for livestock. Heat and humidity accelerate oxidation. For best feed performance, use feed within 2 months of purchasing.
Bhoyar, A (n.d.) Rancidity in Fats and Oils: Considerations for Analytical Testing. EW Nutrition. Accessed April 12, 2023.
Stelker, T. (2016). Storage Life of Livestock Feeds – Frequently Asked Questions. University of Illinois Extension. Accessed April 10, 2023.
(n.d.) General Feed FAQs. Nutrena. Accessed April 10, 2023.
(n.d) “Shelf life.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.