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How to store pig feed: Tips for preventing feed contamination

February 13, 2020
A better bulk bin: Preventing pig feed contamination

The management of feed stored in bulk bins is important for preventing pig feed from being contaminated by mold, insects and rodents. Pigs are particularly sensitive to mycotoxins, and producers should be vigilant in identifying and addressing risks, such as moisture and feed buildup.

Having a sound feed storage management system is vital for preventing pig feed contamination. Stored feed is at risk for mold growth, which can lead to the development of mycotoxins, as well as insect and pest damage, ultimately reducing the nutrient density of the feed. Properly managing feed stored in bulk bins is important to prevent this reduction in nutrition. There are several approaches to maintaining quality feed during bulk-bin storage, including:

  • Running bins empty before refilling them with new deliveries.
  • Not allowing old feed to accumulate in corners or pipework.
  • Keeping bins in good condition to prevent water ingress.
  • Restricting access by rodents and insects.

Bins should be regularly inspected for rust or damage, including leaking seams or loose joints. The inlet and outlet augers need to be examined for damage and the buildup of old feed. Ideally, all bins should be run empty in 30 days, so producers should ensure that they have enough storage capacity to allow for this without running out of feed.

In spring and autumn (or every six months), all bins should be run empty and treated with a mold inhibitor. Bin interiors must be cleaned out with a pressure washer, with close attention given to any corners or other areas where old feed may have become trapped. Bins must be completely dry before they are refilled. Fumigation can be used to control any insects or mites that may be present, and a rodent control program should be instated and regularly reviewed.

The risks of mycotoxins in swine feed

Old, stale and/or damp feed will rapidly develop mold growths. This, in turn, produces mycotoxins, which contaminate the feed and can be highly problematic for pigs.

Compared to cattle, pigs are very sensitive to mycotoxins. Young pigs and breeding sows/boars are generally the most susceptible to mycotoxins. The presence of mycotoxins in the feed, even at low levels, can lead to infertility and abortions, palatability problems, feed wastage and a loss of nutrients (due to fungal activity breaking down the nutrients in the feed). These problems lead to reduced average daily gains and poor performance, reduced reproduction and conception rates, increased disease and health issues on the farm and, ultimately, loss of profits.

Feed ingredients such as corn, soybeans and other cereals, which are used as major components of pig feed, are exposed to fungal contamination in the field. The risk of contamination may be higher in years with wetter harvest conditions. To protect against any potential fungal contamination and to reduce the risks of mycotoxins, a proven, broad-spectrum mycotoxin binder that will negate the effects of the toxins in your herd should be incorporated into the feed.

Furthermore, implementing an all-encompassing prevention program, such as the Alltech® Mycotoxin Management program, is an important part of any feed hygiene and quality strategy on-farm.

Mite contamination

Insect infestations in bulk feed can lead to several issues. Cereal mites bore into grain and are attracted to the starch content of milled or pelleted diets. As mites consume this energy-dense feed component, they unbalance the diet by diluting its energy levels, also potentially affecting the feed’s palatability. Mite contamination also reduces the energy-to-protein balance (which can affect weight gain) and increases both the relative fiber levels and the amount of food wastage. These effects have a major impact on feed conversion efficiency and growth performance, ultimately affecting profitability.

Wet feeding

Offering pigs feeds that are wet or moist poses a major risk for potential fungal and bacterial contamination. If a farm does use wet feeds, it is essential that they pay close attention to equipment hygiene and the quality of each delivered batch. Wet feeds that are not fresh and/or have been stored multiple times before delivery, especially during hotter months, are high-risk for contamination. All storage and processing/mixing areas must be regularly cleaned and disinfected as instructed through a strict hygiene plan.

Any splashed water spilled during delivery or the use of wet feeds must be cleaned up immediately. Storage tanks and pipework must be washed out to mitigate fungal growth and to prevent attracting the attention of rodents, wild birds or insects. Liquid feeding systems must be fitted with drainage points to allow for regular cleaning and efficient draining. Pipework should be disinfected to keep biofilms from building up at any angles or connections, as pipes can harbor pathogens that will contaminate feeds that pass through them in the future. Equipment must be regularly checked for wear and tear, and parts that are likely to break down must be replaced. For instance, valve rubbers deteriorate, so a regular program of maintenance should be incorporated into the farm routine. A stock of the parts that most commonly need replacing should also be maintained, and parts should be reordered once a unit is used.

When mixing complete diets, dry ingredients should be stored separately to prevent water ingress and mold growth. Insects, birds and rodents must not be able to access feed storage or mixing and processing areas. A prevention and eradication program should be in place, including physical barriers to entry, to avoid contaminating feces and urine, which spread disease. Wet feeds are particularly at risk of fecal contamination from wild birds, so to prevent this, all storage tanks must be covered.

Wet feeds should be fed immediately after mixing, as their high water content means they will rapidly start to ferment and spoil. Troughs used for these types of diets must be regularly cleaned to prevent the buildup of stale food, which can increase feed refusals. To ensure that all wet feeds are consumed completely by pigs under ad lib feeding systems, delivery valves should be switched off for appropriate periods of time (i.e., for one to two hours at the end of peak feeding activity). Feeding equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between batches of pigs to prevent any cross-contamination of mycotoxins or pathogens. Stricter hygiene procedures should be observed during hot and humid conditions of feed storage and when using wet feed, as these conditions promote more rapid growth of molds and the multiplication of pathogens. 

For more information on the effects of mycotoxins and to learn more about solutions that can help reduce the mycotoxin risk for your feed and herd, visit


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