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How long can you store hay pellets?

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  • How long can you store hay pellets?

    Someone I know has gotten rid of their horses. If the pasture comes back decent next year, he has said he will hay it and give me all the hay I want. As we talked and he was reminded of my old girl (estimated approaching 30 and starting to have trouble chewing long stem hay), he said he knows a dairy farmer that makes his own hay pellets. He said he would see about giving the farmer whatever hay I don't need in exchange for processing some of mine into pellets.

    If the planets align and this guy knows how to cut/bale hay and the dairy farmer would agree to process some into pellets for me (and knows what he's doing as well), how long do you think I could store the pellets? I have no idea if this farmer would bag them or what at this point....just toying with the idea. I will be able to keep them high and dry.

    This guy has mentioned several times about moving out of the area in the next couple of yrs. So part of me wants to sock away everything I can since it would be essentially free.

    Thoughts? Questions? Any questions I should remember to ask next year if the farmer agrees to make pellets for me?

  • #2
    Just my opinion - but I'd be very wary of a dairy farmer making/processing "hay pellets" for you to feed to your horses. Bovines can safely eat a lot of low-quality stuff that would sicken/kill horses. One can only be so frugal until one starts jeopardizing health. If I were you, I'd stick to commercial products specifically made for horses.


    • #3
      Well, before you start counting those bags of hay pellets, the pasture has to come back decent. If we were talking about my neighbor's pasture or even parts of mine there wouldn't be anything to hay or there'd be lots of weeds in the mix, I doubt it would be worth it.

      Now, if you are asking the general question of how long does the nutrient value remain stable in hay pellets - days, months or years, well that is a good question.
      Supposedly whole grains last for three years in the desert Southwest and barely a season in the temperate Central Americas, so your ambient humidity will play into it, UV bleaching, mice, dust and dirt, whatever else you can think of. Hmm. Off to google land!

      Back from googling, and there is one resource from Rutgers talking about the nutrient value of hay. No length of time is given, but they talk about how you can leave your curing hay out in the sun too long and drastically reduce the vitamin content - ie leaving your hay out in the sun at any time is not good
      Last edited by ReSomething; Dec. 8, 2012, 04:01 PM.
      Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Bacardi1 View Post
        Just my opinion - but I'd be very wary of a dairy farmer making/processing "hay pellets" for you to feed to your horses. Bovines can safely eat a lot of low-quality stuff that would sicken/kill horses. One can only be so frugal until one starts jeopardizing health. If I were you, I'd stick to commercial products specifically made for horses.

        Dairy cows require very high quality feed to produce milk. If you feed crap you won't get anything out of your cows. Cows can eat things horses can't including silage in both grain and hay form. It doesn't mean it is of bad quality it is just baled or cut and stored and fed in a whole different way.

        Dairy farmers can and do produce their own feed so I would find out if he can indeed turn properly cut, dried( cured) hay into pellets. If he is making his own pelleted feed for his cows I would find out exactly what is in his pellets because he will be using the same equipment to make yours.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks everyone for the feedback so far. I AM very wary of what this farmer's pellets might turn out like which is why I'm posting here for feedback and thoughts. I just can't blindly turn down an offer of free pellets when I'm paying $200+ a month in the winter for my mare's cubes (and potentially year round as her dentition gets worse). If this turns out to be a great deal with everyone knowing what they're doing...then awesome...I get to mix some pellets with her hay cubes and reduce my costs. If not, she's absolutely worth the hay bill and maybe my mother-in-law gets to reduce her feed costs with just the free baled hay - or maybe not if I don't like the looks of even that.


          • #6
            If your friend's hay is cr*p though, the pellets will be cr*p too. Free or not.

            Obviously I have no knowledge about the condition of your friend's pastures, they could have been huge and managed to perfection, but a pasture isn't a hayfield and vice versa, the management is different. I'm not too worried about the pelletization process, there's info all over the web about it, it's my thought that you need to have the hay tested before you go to the trouble.

            Commercial pellets meet a standard average, not so much the home made kind.
            Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
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            • Original Poster

              As stated in OP, this is a no go (the planets aligning and all that) if the pasture is crap, or his hay is crap. If his hay is not crap and can I get a sample of pellets from the farmer and don't like them....no go. If we get so far as the farmer making pellets for me and I don't like how they turn out...no go - farmer can keep them or I'll dispose of them. One pasture he seeded as fescue, one as orchard grass. I'm interested only in the orchard grass one....and only if it comes back ok.

              Really, the question was how long could it be stored as pellets?


              • #8
                OK. I buy my hay a year in advance and store it in a non climate controlled loft out of the weather, by that I mean that there is some moisture that can get in there, by the time the year is up the last bales are lower in quality but still palatable.
                We buy the small alfalfa pellets three month' worth at a time for our rabbits. They are in triple ply paper bags and stored in the not climate controlled shop, which is basically about as sealed as a normal garage but not insulated.
                I've noticed no difference in palatability between the first bag and the last. There's a difference between brands though, one type is cheaper and they seem less enthused about eating it.
                Once the pellets are in the feeders though, they go stale within 24 hours, which I understand is from ambient moisture, and the rabbits will ignore them. We recycle those for the pony, he eats anything.

                I would expect to be able to keep bagged pellets for at least three months no problem, and maybe up to 18 months (based on the fact that my hay stays good for a year) if the plastic lined bags were used and as long as my storage area was free of moisture or vermin chewing their way into the bags. Air tight, not too hot or cold or damp.

                I would not expect to get more than a few months out of pellets or feed in a grain bin, I'm talking about the tall metal silo type bins with an auger in the bottom. They seem to be prone to condensation if they are outside which they usually are.
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                • Original Poster

                  OK...so pkg would make a diff. Will make a note to see how he would plan to pkg them. I would either be storing them in my 'feed stall' (extra barn stall with no outside access so stays dry) or in the barn loft. So not air tight and not climate controlled. Cats do a good job at keeping the vermin at bay and one chooses to sleep in the loft most of the time.


                  • #10
                    Pellets or cubes in bags, stored in a dry place (dry regarding humidity and dry regarding potential water) and protected from vermin last damned near forever. I just tossed a couple bags of cubes that were probably 3-4 years old that were FINE, figuring that I would just not be feeding cubes in the near future and I needed the room. If I still had them, I'd have no problems feeding them now. Granted, we are VERY dry here in Colorado, so humidity simply is not a threat.

                    If you're in a humid place or they get wet, then that is going to seriously shorten the time that you can store them--same thing if you get rodents or bugs in there. Water, humidity and bugs are going to make your hay cubes or pellets toast in short order.


                    • #11
                      The reference I have says that " . . . modern Puebloans can store corn for only two or three years, after which it is too rotten or infested to eat." That's from Jared Diamond's Collapse, P 153, he hasn't got it footnoted himself. No humidity in the Southwest, not to speak of.

                      Air tight should probably be changed to read something on the order of dehumidified and kept from temperature extremes.

                      What I don't know is if there are any weevils or other insects that will infest hay - does orchard grass include seed heads and how does the pelletization process deal with them - cook them, dessicate them, kill eggs and larva or what?
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