Managing Spring and Summer Feed Inventories

Managing Spring and Summer Feed Inventories

In the feed business, everyone would like consistent year-round sales so it is easier to forecast orders and manage inventory. The reality is managing inventory across four distinct seasons is challenging and can have a tremendous impact on profitability.

Moisture loss, mold growth, yeast growth, and insect infestation are common examples of poor feed condition. Moisture loss generally causes feed to change color, emit odor changes, and take on a poor appearance. Pelleted products can experience significant loss of moisture without a noticeable effect on product quality. Sweet/texturized products that contain a greater percentage of moisture, tend to be most affected by moisture loss. Warmer air can carry more moisture, so as the temperature increases, moisture is drawn from the feed into the surrounding air. Along with causing product quality issues, moisture provides an environment for the growth of mold and yeast.

Mold and yeast growth tends to come at times when changes in temperature are occurring as these cultures thrive on unbound moisture. Unbound moisture, or condensation, forms at the boundary of a large temperature difference. For example, warm air passing over a cold garage floor will cause moisture to form on the garage floor. Similarly, cooling bin walls and feed, still warm from the daily sun, allow moisture to form, offering a great environment for the growth of mold and yeast.

Ideal storage conditions allow for air movement around the product being stored. Heat, which is detrimental to feed products, should be minimized whenever possible. Feed should be stored on pallets or racks to eliminate contact with floors and walls. Metal walls and concrete flooring tend to hold cooler temperatures for longer periods. This concentration of cooler temperatures allows free moisture to accumulate, causing damage to feed products. Temperature variations can dramatically shorten the shelf life of feed products. Extremely high temperatures can also reduce efficacies of vitamins and some microbial ingredients.

Shelf life of feed products varies by the type of product, time of year, and storage conditions. Humidity and heat conditions present during storage will largely determine the shelf life of the product. Listed below is a suggested summer shelf life by feed type.

Suggested Summer Shelf Life by Feed Type
Feed Type Shelf Life
Dry pelleted products (range cubes, pellets, and crumbles) 90-120 days
Textured products (sweet horse feeds) 45-60 days
Rain-Cote® mineral products Up to 6 months

Note: In colder weather, shelf life of each type of product can increase.

While a number of insects can infest feed products, flour beetles (also known as weevils) and grain mites (often called paper or bag mites) are two of the most common insects associated with feed storage. Flour beetles and grain mites lay eggs in grains prior to harvest and when grains are stored in large silos. These eggs often lay dormant in the grain until hatching months later when mild temperatures and moisture are present, offering better conditions for hatching.

Flour beetles are small insects, usually 1/16” to 1/8” in length, and brown to dark brown in color. These insects are generally considered harmless and are more of a nuisance than a danger. Grain mites are extremely small and generally look like light colored dust on the bag. While not dangerous, grain mites can produce a pheromone (odor) which can reduce the palatability of the product. Both of these insects are extremely fast growing, doubling their numbers every two to seven days. If an insect infestation is discovered, it is important to remove affected feeds immediately to avoid contaminating additional products in storage.

Feeds stored in bins face many of the same challenges to shelf life. Organic products, such as feed and grain, hold heat longer than the metal walls of the bin. Hot humid air rising from the stored feed comes in contact with the cooling bin exterior causing condensation. The condensation then accumulates until there is enough moisture present to form a drop, which slides down the sidewall or falls from the lid onto the feed. As with bagged products, this concentration of moisture will facilitate mold and yeast growth as well as aid the potential for insect infestation. Ventilation systems that allow hot air to escape and prevent condensation on the interior of the bin will reduce or eliminate some of the storage challenges. Since most bins empty in a “cone” fashion, the feed at the side of the bin tends to be stationary longest. Extended contact time between feed and bin sides traps moisture, causing feed to hang onto the bin walls and often turn moldy. Routine bin cleaning is encouraged to prevent mold growth, allow for an inventory “reset,” as well as give an opportunity to inspect the bin or make repairs.

Another common occurrence that can cause quality problems in bulk feeds are fines. A certain amount of fines will always be present in feed. In many bulk systems, the fines will float to the top of the bin as it unloads. Over the course of time, bins not completely emptied will collect significant amounts of fines, which are discharged when the bin is ultimately unloaded. Along with routine cleaning, it is a good idea to regularly empty bulk bins prior to filling.

Kent - your partner for product quality

Kent takes several steps to aid the management of summer inventory. Feeds susceptible to mold and yeast growth can be treated with liquid mold inhibitors. Mold inhibitors attempt to change the pH balance of the product to decrease the potential for mold and yeast growth. The high quality buffered inhibitors used by Kent reduce the odor and palatability concerns associated with mold inhibitors. Kent also uses antioxidants and/or dry mold inhibitors in some pelleted products to preserve freshness. We also empty our bins, with emphasis on ingredient bins during the summer to positively influence freshness and reduce chance of insect infestation.

Kent manages inventory levels to avoid as many of these challenges as possible yet meet customer expectations. While there are advantages to “stocking up,” offering products that are as fresh as possible improves dealer shelf life and customer satisfaction. This means Kent constantly strives to maintain the balance between providing the freshest product possible and having the products and quantities desired by our dealers and customers in each market.

If you have questions about storage, shipping, or handling Kent products contact your local dealer or contact our customer service team at (866) 647-1212 or by email at [email protected].

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