What is it?
Beet pulp is a highly digestible fiber source that is a byproduct in the processing of sugar beets for sugar. It’s basically what’s left over after the sugar is extracted from sugar beets.
Since the sugar beet industry is happy to have a way dispose of the pulp, it is one of the more inexpensive feeds available to supplement in your horse’s diet. Beet pulp is similar in energy value to oats but the energy comes from digestible fiber and not from starch making it healthier.
What is the Nutritional Value of Beet Pulp?
Beet pulp has about the same protein as a good grass hay, averaging 8 to 10%, however it is higher in calories than hay. It is a good source of fermentable fiber, is fairly high in calcium, high in crude fiber but basically has no vitamin content.
Why Feed Beet Pulp to Horses?
Due to its digestibility and the fact that it is easy to chew, Beet pulp is a useful addition to the diet of many types of horses.
Horses that are hard keepers, have dentation issues, or have colic concerns are all great candidates for Beet pulp, although any horse will benefit from the high fiber content and additional water source in their diets.
How Do You Feed Beet Pulp?
Beet pulp comes in either a shredded or pelleted form. Some manufacturers add a touch of molasses to improve its palatability and energy content. Most horses will gobble it up without the added molasses but if you want to make sure, then go with that type. Because it is only added for flavor there is usually not enough molasses in the Beet pulp to metabolically affect your horse.
Many feed companies add Beet pulp to their feeds making those feeds “complete” feeds. They can provide all the fiber a horse requires. This type of feed is perfect for situations where no hay or a limited amount of hay or pasture is fed, as well as for older horses or horses with respiratory problems such as heaves.
When substituting Beet pulp for hay, the usual amount is to feed 1 pound of beet pulp for every 1.5 pounds of hay being replaced. As an example, you would use 4 pounds of Beet pulp to replace 6 pounds of hay in your horse’s diet.
Beet pulp is more labor intensive than feeding hay as most horse owners will want to soak it before feeding it although this is not really necessary. I recommend soaking Beet pulp for two reasons; the first is to reduce the risk of choke. Although research says this is a myth but I say why risk it? The second, and primary reason, I soak Beet pulp is to add water to the horse’s diet.
To properly soak Beet pulp, place it in a bucket and add twice as much water as Beet pulp by volume, so 2:1 water to beet pulp.
Warm or cold water may be used; although if time is an issue using warm water will decrease the soaking time. I soak for 30 minutes when I’m using warm water and 60 minutes if I’m using cold water. Some of my clients soak it overnight for the morning feed and all day for the evening feed. Just be careful in the summer and not leave it longer than 24 hours.
When Beet pulp is ready for feeding it will have soaked up all or most of the water, and will have expanded in volume and have a mushy consistency.
If you have a horse with metabolic problems its good idea to rinse the beet soaked Beet pulp to reduce the sugar content.
I use Beet pulp consistently with my clients, especially for hard keepers, older guys and those wanting to fill out a topline.
Side Note: Since Beet pulp comes from beets that are grown in the ground don’t be surprised to see some dirt in the bag.
~Peace and Good Feed,