Beet pulp for horses

 

Beet pulp is a staple in most horse diets and can be fed with or without supplements and other feeds. Many commercial feeds contain part beet pulp to add flavor, fiber, and substance to the product. Fun fact – it’s actually considered a forage as it’s fermented in the hindgut, like hay or pasture.

 

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What is beep pulp?

 

  • Beet pulp is a byproduct of the sugar beet industry. In some areas of the world, sugar is extracted from sugar beets, not sugar cane. The final result is beet pulp, a handy ingredient in your horse’s diet.

 

  • Beet pulp is formulated in several ways, such as pellets, shredded, and even in flakes. You can find it with and without molasses, and some manufacturers have even added other vitamins and minerals to their products to create a more balanced food for your horse.

 

horse eating from a small bucket in a barn aisle

 

The benefits of beet pulp for horses – calories and starch content

 

Beet pulp is a good choice for your horse’s digestive tract and total diet for a few reasons:

 

  • It’s high in fiber and, therefore, highly digestible.

 

  • Beet pulp is also high in calories, which is great for the hard keepers out there who need help with weight gain. It’s also suitable for high-performance horses that require more energy.

 

  • Horses with dental issues can easily chew beet pulp. It’s even better when soaked, as the water content helps chewing, too.

 

  • It’s low in sugars and starches, which makes beet pulp good for horses with metabolic issues like PPID (Cushing’s), insulin resistance, and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), as long as you feed the sugar beet pulp without added molasses or other sugars.

 

  • The high fiber content makes it a prebiotic – so the microbes in your horse’s hindgut use this as a food source. Healthy microbes mean a happy horse!

 

  • It’s delicious! Beet pulp, by itself, is a favorite among most horses, and it has great palatability.

 

Read more about PPID and EMS here.  

 

wet beet pulp in a bucket

The shredded beet pulp “soup” after soaking in water for about 15 minutes.

 

The downsides of beet pulp feed

 

The molasses!

 

  • Molasses adds flavor (like a bribe!), reduces dust, and adds sugars. For metabolically challenged horses, skip the molasses and order the No-Mo version.

 

  • Metabolically challenged horses or those with *ahem* a large body condition score benefit from a diet with NSC values lower than 10%. The No-Mo versions have lower sugar content, and the NSC value is below 10%. Adding molasses brings the NSC to about 15%.

 

  • Due to the lower sugar content, horses with polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) also do well on No-Mo versions.

 

  • Adding molasses can be helpful if your horse is a picky eater or you need to hide a particularly yucky supplement or medication.

 

Read this for more information about PSSM and how to feed a horse with this disorder.

 

Nutrition when using beet pulp with other feeds

 

  • Straight beet pulp for horses is not a good single choice for your horse’s food; it’s just not full of the good stuff.

 

  • There’s not much nutrition to beet pulp, but it does have lower potassium than grass-based forages. Thus, it’s great for horses with HYPP that can’t tolerate dietary potassium.

 

  • But it’s high in calcium and low in phosphorus, which must be balanced with other ingredients in your horse’s diet to sort out the calcium-phosphorus ratio. It pairs well with oats, which are lower in calcium and higher in phosphorus, making for a yummy concoction to feed your horse.

 

  • Adding a vitamin and mineral supplement and some vitamin E will help balance things out.

 

  • As always, your equine nutritionist can help you with this process. It’s complicated!

 

close up of beet pulp pellets

Pellets take longer to soak in water. 

 

Tips and benefits of soaking beet pulp

 

  • There is a slight risk of choke while eating beet pulp, although this is more common when feeding dry shreds. But there’s a risk of choking anytime a horse eats.

 

  • Any form of beet pulp you feed is best soaked before feeding. Pellets may take longer to get mushy than flakes or shreds. Don’t soak for too long; in summer months, it may ferment.

 

  • You can store wet beet pulp for hours in mild temperatures or a climate-controlled feed room, but you could end up with popsicles in cold weather. Beetsicles.

 

  • Use clean buckets to soak your horse’s feeds. Keep them covered when soaking to prevent flies and curious critters from snacking.

 

  • Pro tip for excellent results: soak 1 part beet pulp in 2 parts water for ideal consistency.

 

Read this for more about choke in horses.

 

Identifying and preventing spoiled beet pulp for livestock and horses

 

  • If you see extra dust, mold, mildew, rice poop, or moving critters in your beet pulp for horses, it’s time to toss the bags.

 

  • Anytime you find funny smells, consider your horse’s food ready for the trash bin. You may smell mold or mildew or something sour or vinegar-y when soaking. It’s no good then!

 

  • Only the freshest, safest feed will do.

 

horse eating from a bucket containing beet pulp

 

Rice bran vs beet pulp – can you substitute one for the other?

 

  • Rice Bran: Recently promoted as a source of fat (energy) for horses, rice bran is also a fair source of fiber. Rice bran, however, has even higher phosphorus per pound than wheat bran. Some commercial rice bran products have added calcium to correct the imbalance, but, as with wheat bran, rice bran is not recommended as a major forage substitute.

 

  • Rice bran is also high-calorie and good for weight gain, and it has added goodness by supplying fat, fiber, and B vitamins like thiamin. BTW, thiamin is an ingredient in many calming supplements. 

 

  • Rice bran has more protein and fiber than beet pulp.

 

Read more about rice bran here.

 

Pellets or shredded beet pulp?

 

  • You should use the type of beet pulp for horses that is good for your horse and your budget. If time constraints are a thing for you, go for the shredded version, which soak much faster than the pelleted beep pulp.

 

  • Also, compare the sugars and molasses content. Sometimes, there is a little molasses in the No-Mo pellets, so they stay in pellet form. It will be less than the full-on molasses variety, but it might make a difference to your horse.

 

dry beet pulp in a hand

Dry, shredded beet pulp. The shreds are very small!

 

 

How to safely add beet pulp shreds to your horse’s diet

 

  • Any changes to your horse’s diet should be slow and steady. It’s usually ok to stop feeding something suddenly, but you want to introduce a new hay, supplement, or feed slowly.

 

  • Your vet or equine nutritionist can help you develop the best feeding change plan.

 

Change your horse’s feeding plan slowly – for forage, supplements, and all feeds

 

  • If your horse doesn’t need to discontinue a food immediately, take a few weeks to reduce any ingredients being replaced by beet pulp and slowly add the new ones. And this might be the beet pulp and any vitamin and mineral supplements needed to balance it. Balancing is required with supplements if you feed more than 2-3 lbs a day.

 

  • If comparing fiber contents, know that one lb. of pulp equals one and a half pounds of hay.

 

  • Feed many small meals instead of one big one.

 

 

Many horses can thrive while eating beet pulp if fed with appropriate supplementation. It’s affordable and convenient, and most horses love the taste.

 

 

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06/28/2024 07:51 am GMT
Ernst Grain & Livestock Midwest Agri Shredded Beet Pulp with Molasses, 30 lbs
$49.99 ($0.10 / Ounce)

The molasses makes it more delicious, but that's not great for all horses.

06/22/2024 07:43 am GMT
New Country Organics - Beet Pellets 40 lbs
$88.99 ($0.14 / Ounce)

Fancy beet pulp

06/27/2024 08:08 am GMT

Thank you!