One of the most used spaces in your barn is the feed room. Because this space is used daily, it is very important to keep it clean, organized, and easily accessible so that feeding time runs smoothly and quickly.
If you have a large barn with a lot of horses with different dietary requirements, it will be especially important to prevent any mix-ups, and keep everyone who has a hand in the feeding process on the same page. Keeping a tidy and organized feed room is one step towards ensuring happy and healthy horses.
Tip 1: Organize Feed Rooms Based on Frequency of Use
When setting up your feed room, make note of which items you will need on a daily basis. Scoops, buckets, and feed bins should be kept where they will be easily accessible. Items that are used less frequently, like pain medications or extra wormers, can be stored out of the way.
The feed room also tends to be a great place to keep a first aid kit on hand – for both horses and humans. This is something that should be easy to get to but sufficiently tucked away that you won’t find yourself tripping over it every day. An easily accessible shelf is the ideal spot for first aid kits because it keeps them out of the way, but also visible and easy to locate.
Tip #2: Use Square Bins for Feed
Organizing the actual horse feed within the feed room is the first step, since this is likely to take up the most space. This can be done by using large plastic bins or trash cans with lids that close tightly to hold the grain.
Traditionally, round trash cans have been popular for grain storage in horse barns, but the round shape actually wastes a lot of valuable space in a small feed room! To organize your feed room and maximize use of your space, use square feed bins with liners that can be easily removed for fast cleaning.
There are a couple of options as far as how to sort the feed. If you have an equine business with boarders, and they do not supply their horse’s feed, then you can have a bin for each type of grain you are feeding. If each boarder supplies their own horse’s feed, then having a specific bin labeled for each horse is the best method for organizing.
When each horse has their own bin, any necessary supplements can be stored in plastic bags or tubs within the bin so everything needed for each horse is organized and easy to access at mealtime.
Tip #3: Have a Bucket in your Feed Room for Each Horse
Having a specific bucket for each horse’s daily meals will eliminate any confusion when it comes time to feed. The buckets can be labeled or color-coded; whatever system works best for you and your clients.
Keep feed time organized by prepping the horses’ meals ahead of time in the designated buckets. The buckets can then be stacked together so they are ready to go when it is time to feed.
Stack the buckets inside empty feed bins – or have a sealed storage area – to avoid attracting mice and other rodents. This will also reduce the risk of them being knocked over accidentally and the grain spilling. Ensuring each horse has their own bucket will also prevent the possibility of any cross-contamination of medications or allergens and keep your feed room neat and tidy.
Tip #4: Label Everything in your Feed Room
As you begin to put everything away in your newly tidied feed room, labels will come in very handy.
Each bin of feed should be labeled with either the type of feed it contains or the horse it belongs to (depending on whether or not boarders supply their own grain).
Place a label on every bucket to denote which horse it belongs to. This will prevent confusion when feed time rolls around. This will also help prevent any cross-contamination of medicines or substances that are banned from horse competitions. If labels are not your thing, color-coding each horse’s bucket to match their bin of feed is another possibility to help avoid mix-ups.
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Tip #5: Invest in a Whiteboard + Magnets
Keeping a whiteboard and dry erase markers in your feed room is an excellent way to keep everyone on the same page regarding each horse’s feed and dietary needs.
The board can be easily changed or updated as needed. It can be a central place where each horse has their meals and necessary medications or supplements listed in one place for easy reference. Use thin whiteboard tape and colorful whiteboard magnets to create a color-coded grid for peak feed room organization.
A white board in your feed room will allow for easy communication between horse owners and whoever has the responsibility for feeding. The board will help relay information if there have been any changes to a horse’s feed, and will avoid people having to try to memorize each horse’s meals. It can also be used to indicate whether or not a horse has received their necessary medications for the day, which will avoid the risk of them being administered twice.
Tip #6: Over-Engineer Your Storage
Tack, feed, and equipment for horses are heavy. And over time- as we inevitably squeeze more and more onto a shelf or drawer – the weight can add up.
To set up your feed room for success, mount everything directly to a stud, use drawers and organizers designed for agricultural or commercial use, and install plenty of heavy duty shelf brackets with thick wood shelves that won’t warp.
Tip: place your shelf bracks much closer together than the instructions indicate, and use more brackets per shelf. These little investments will keep your shelves looking great by helping them resist warping.
Tip #7: Meal Prep Feed up to a Week in Advance
Preparing meals for each horse a week or two at a time can provide a huge boost in organization, and is one of my best tips for speeding up horse chores. At some barns, the boarders will prepare the meals for their horses themselves, while at other farms, one or two designated staff members prepare the meals for all of the horses.
Meals can be prepped by filling plastic zip-top bags with feed, supplements, and any medications already measured out for each day. This way, the person who does the feeding can just grab one for each horse, empty them into the feeders, and be on to their next task without having to take the time to prepare each horse’s meal themselves.
Pro Tip: To reduce plastic waste, invest in thicker 4 Mil Thick 2 Gallon Zip Top Bags, While more expensive than standard ZipLoc™ style bags, which are 1.5-3 mil thick, 4 mil bags can be emptied and refilled dozens of times before the plastic weakens. Thicker bags are also more effective at keeping food odors in and rodents out.
If prepping this far out at a time doesn’t work for you and your clients, try to at least get meals ready the night before. This makes sure the morning feeding crew is not having to rush to get everything together, especially when hungry horses are anxiously awaiting their breakfast. Mistakes are more likely to happen when rushing, and preparing each meal the day of adds a lot of time to the morning routine.
Final tips for Keeping your Feed Room Organized and Efficient
Organization is key to keeping things running smoothly, especially when there are a lot of horses to take care of. Keeping your feed room clean is also extremely important. Grain and supplements will inevitably spill sometimes, so make sure to keep a broom and dustpan handy for cleaning up so you can avoid attracting mice.
Ultimately, keeping a feed room organized will be a team effort between everyone who uses the barn, so make sure communication is clear about how to use, clean, and maintain the feed room in a way that works for you.