Shelf Life of Feed

Q: What is the shelf life on feed?

A:  It's going to depend on several things.  The industry standard is that feed is good from 6 months of when it is bought, since you can't generally read the date on the tag or bag.  We like to be more conservative here at Union Point and that may be one reason our feed performs so well.  We like to see it used in 3 months, which is half the industry standard, but I'm not saying that it will explode into flames in four months, either. It's just that fresher is better, and we're committed to building the best.

It is very common to see feed for sale on shelves that is a lot older than that.  That is why most feed companies do not put a date of manufacture on their label but instead use a form of coding.  It probably won't kill your animals (except for young poultry) but the vitamins are likely in short supply.

The physical form of the feed makes a difference, the storage conditions make a difference, and the vitamins' age and conditions of manufacture all make a difference.

Ground and chopped grains deteriorate quickly just by coming into contact with oxygen in the air, so mash and ground feeds don't last long at all.  Whole grains last a long time. Properly made pellets mimic the natural seed coat and keep ground feed materials from contact with the air and deterioration. Keeping your feed dry and keeping out rodents and dust and mold will prolong its life, but there is still the vitamin issue.

I like to emphasize the importance of fresh vitamins.  (This is the kind of milling insider information that I enjoy sharing.)  In the process of manufacturing feed, when the vitamin sources make physical contact with the feed materials and especially with the minerals, the vitamins begin to deteriorate.  There's a physical chemical and electrical reaction between the vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients that degrades the vitamins right away, and it continues to degrade them until they are useless.  So old feed might look okay, but you can bet that the vitamins are no good.

There's a 20% loss right at the point of manufacture.  I deal with that here at Union Point by formulating to 120% of the fresh vitamins I want in the final feed, so we end up at 100% of the vitamins' value when the feed goes into the bag.  After that, a good rule of thumb to use is that the vitamins go away at the rate of about 10% per month.  The minerals are stable.  So our fresh feed is at 100%, one month old feed is 90%, two month old feed is at 80%, and by 6 months the vitamins are half gone.  Some places may manufacture with a 6-month-old vitamin premix, lose 20% right off, and continue losing at that 10% rate till the feed moves through the distribution chain and ends up in the animal. There's a better way.

As I say, the industry standard is 6 months from when you buy it, but how long did a bag of feed sit in the manufacturer's warehouse, on the feed store shelf, and in the barn before it was used?  I wouldn't throw it out necessarily, but I wouldn't count on it to provide vitamins, that's for sure.  Lots of feed stores will discount old feed; just remember, the vitamins are probably long gone.  

I like to see folks use fresh feed, so we do all we can to encourage that. Six months is fine; three months is better, and fresher is best