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First Posted: Oct 19, 2009
Dec 8, 2011

Beet Pulp and Horses

by Debora Johnson


Pelleted Beet Pulp


Shredded Beet Pulp - Image used with permission
Karen's Musings & Endurance Ride Stuff

What is beet pulp for horses? Where is it grown? It is a good source of carbohydrate for horses? Is it safe for horses? When would you feed beet pulp? How do you feed beet pulp?

Beet pulp comes from the sugar beet industry. It is mostly grown in the upper Midwest, Michigan and California. These beets are actually grown for their sugar content and the byproducts that are left, after the beet has been processed for its sugar, are used in animal food markets. This byproduct comes in several forms for animal consumption: pelleted beet pulp and shredded beet pulp.

What You Need to Know About Beet Pulp When Feeding It to Your Horse

  • Has low moisture content (about 5%)
  • Can cause choke or colic because of its dryness if not fed properly.
  • Must soak in water before feeding, to add moisture.
  • Adds water content to your horse's diet because of soaking.
  • Has the same caloric content as oats and is not a grain product.
  • Easy on the horse's digestive system.
  • Shredded beet pulp provides extra fiber length. (Scratch factor)
  • Scratch Factor - "...Your horse needs at least half of his forage of the long-stemmed variety to maintain good digestive tract health. The villi in the horse's intestinal tract require the "scratch factor" of long stemmed forage (hay, alfalfa cubes, chopped forage, and to a lesser extent, beet pulp shreds) to function normally. Pelleted forage sources and so called "complete" feeds do not provide this. Production of saliva is also dependent upon long-stemmed or scratch factor fiber and saliva protects the gut and helps prevent ulcers." Equi-Shine

  • Beet pulp is a "super fiber" due to its high digestibility and ease of fermentation.
  • "Due to beet pulp's relatively high calcium and low phosphorus content, feeding too much could result in an imbalance of the ratio of those two minerals in the total diet of the horse. This is important to bear in mind as it could interfere with normal bone development in youngsters. In addition, excessive dietary calcium can increase the risk of kidney stones in older horses or intestinal stones (enteroliths) in horses of any age. Therefore, it is advised to have no more than 25% of your horse's total diet fed as beet pulp. That percent may need to be reduced for young, growing horses in which proper bone development is critical."
  • University of Illinois Extension

Beet pulp based commercial feed is used by many horse owners because it does not have to be soaked. It also takes less space for storage. Oils and molasses are added to it to make it more palatable and moist. Also, vitamins such as A and minerals such as selenium are added to the feed and provide needed nutrients to your horse. However, the scratch factor is lost in the pelleted form of beet pulp.

Beet pulp is high fiber and low in non-structural carbohydrates. It is now felt that horses need to lower non-structural carbohydrates. Beet pulp has an average of 12% non-structural carbohydrate which is excellent. Beet pulp is also beneficial to the aged horse who may have metabolic diseases, gastric ulcers or respiratory problems. It is cost effective and convenient to use.

Non-structural carbohydrates - "...Carbohydrates can be classified into two broad classes based on their function in plants. Coincidentally, these classes also relate to rumen degradation rate. Structural carbohydrates are located within the plant cell wall and provide structural support for plants to grow upright. These structural carbohydrates are the fibrous portions of plants and are slowly digested. Structural carbohydrates are composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, pectins, and beta-glucans. The structural carbohydrate portion of plants is reflected in the neutral and acid detergent fiber analyses (NDF and ADF, respectively). The other class is non-structural or non-fibrous carbohydrates (NSC or NFC) which are located in the seeds and leaves. These carbohydrates provide energy for germination and early plant growth. This category includes starches, simple sugars, organic acids, and fructans..."

For More Information:

University of Illinois Extension
"Understanding Beet Pulp as an Equine Feed," by: Eric Haydt
The Myths and Reality of Beet Pulp

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