Preparing Your Feed Room and Hayloft for the Winter
Here are five tips to make sure your feed room and hayloft are ready for winter.
1. Clean out your feed room.
A clean feed room will help to reduce feed losses due to insect and rodent damage. It will also give you more room to store and properly manage your feed, hay, and supplements.
- Toss any feed or supplements that are out of date, moldy or that rodents or insects have damaged.
- Clean up any spilled feed that may attract hungry rodents.
- Inspect storage containers and bins to be sure they are clean and rodent-proof.
- Remove nesting materials like old feedbags, papers, rags, etc., that mice and rats can turn into their winter homes.
- Set out bait stations or traps to catch rodents as they move in for the winter.
- Seal cracks in doors and windows to reduce cold drafts and moisture.
2. Stockpile concentrates (sweet feed and pellets).
There is nothing worse than running out of feed in the middle of a winter storm. Planning ahead and keeping enough feed on hand will reduce the number of times you have to venture to the feed store on treacherous roads, or beg your farm store to send a truck out in dangerous weather.
- Calculate how much feed you need to last at least a week (two, if you live way out or frequently experience bad storms). Keep that amount on hand at all times.
- Devise a storage system that makes it easy to rotate your feed so that you are always using up the older feed first. This will help reduce losses due to spoilage and ensure you are always feeding fresh feed.
- Store bagged feed away from doors where snow drifts or blowing rain can soak bags and ruin feed.
- Store bagged feed off the ground on pallets to them protect from moisture.
- Clean under your pallets regularly to reduce rodent infestation.
3. Fill your hayloft with good quality fiber.
The best way to keep your horse warm in the cold weather is to offer him or her plenty of good quality forage. Having an adequate supply stashed away for the winter is optimal, but if you can’t store enough to last the season, be sure you have a reliable source lined up so you don’t run out.
- Clean out your hay storage area and discard any hay that is moldy or has been damaged by raccoons or possums. Spray or remove any bee or wasp nests you discover.
- Store as much good quality hay as you can.
- Test hay as it comes in so you know it’s nutritional value. Keep “same with same” and when changing from one load to the next, do so over 5 to 7 days.
- When possible, store hay on pallets to increase air flow under your stacks. This will reduce molding due to lack of circulation and moisture buildup.
- Keep bales out of direct sunlight that can leach out nutrients.
- Secure doors and window to reduce moisture damage from blowing rain or snow.
- Hay cubes or pellets can supply a portion of your horse’s fiber needs and can often be easier to source and store. If you are storing forage in bags, put them on pallets and protect them from moisture.
- If you choose to supplement with cubes or pellets, introduce them slowly into your horse’s diet over 7 to 10 days.
4. Take a supplement inventory.
What supplements do you need to maintain your horse during the winter? Some horses require additional vitamins and minerals when pasture grasses are no longer available. Other horses need additional energy and digestive support during cold winter months. Take an inventory and order what you need so you have it on hand when your horse needs it.
- Check the expiration dates on the supplements you have on hand. Discard all expired supplements.
- Be sure you have the appropriate scoop for each supplement. If you are missing a scoop, contact the supplement company for a replacement.
- Make sure supplement lids are clean and closed tightly to protect freshness.
- Be sure to keep at least a 2-week supply of each supplement on hand at all times so you don’t run out at inopportune times.
- Review storage instructions on supplements, especially liquids. When necessary, protect them from freezing temperatures.
- Store supplements off the ground, on shelves or pallets, to reduce exposure to dirt and moisture.
- If a supplement container isn’t rodent-proof, then put it in a container that is. Mice and rats like supplements too!
- Don’t store supplements in direct sunlight or in your vehicle.
5. Protect medications.
We all have an assortment of equine medications in our feed rooms. You are not going to have a good day when you reach for a medication only to find it is expired or frozen. You also don’t want to run out at a crucial time. Inclement weather can stress horses and cause an uptick in injuries and illness, so be prepared!
- Review all your medications and toss those that are expired or damaged.
- Replace the medications you need and keep a reasonable supply on hand.
- Read storage directions and follow them. Some medications may need to be stored in a climate-controlled area or refrigerator.
- Don’t store medications in direct sunlight or in your vehicle.
Keeping horses healthy in cold winter weather is always challenging. A little smart planning can ease the stress to both you and your horse.
Do you have additional tips you would like to share? We would love to hear them. Simply post them below!