Beet Pulp: A Beneficial Horse Feed Ingredient.
Posted | Tags: Nutrition
Beet pulp has been a popular feed for horses for years without many people really knowing why.
Beet pulp is a byproduct of the sugar beet industry that is predominant in the upper Midwest, Michigan, and California. Sugar beets look a lot like a turnip that has been taking growth hormones, they are very large. The beets are grown and processed not so we have something to feed to our horses, but for the sugar content. After the sugar is processed and removed, the pulp is left over.
Initially when processing beet pulp, consistency of particle size and stem and root contamination was a concern. Stems and roots look like small pieces of balsa wood that are typically about 1 to 2 inches in length and about a ¼ to ½ inch in diameter. Utilizing improved screening systems the industry is continuing to do a better job of making the product cleaner and more consistent.
Beet pulp brings a number of benefits to the horse’s diet:
- It is often referred to as a “super fiber” due to its high digestibility and ease of fermentation. The reason is the lack of lignin in the fiber. In comparison, tall pastures and overly mature hay cannot be digested well by horses because of the high lignin content in the plant. In addition, high lignin content fibers like peanut hulls, oat hulls and rice hulls have very low fermentation properties.
- Beet pulp, has nearly the same caloric content as oats.
- Beet pulp has a low NSC (starch and sugar content) averaging around 12%.
- Wonderful addition to the diet when forage availability is scarce, forage quality is low, or to help meet the fiber needs for horses with poor dentition due to face injuries or aging.
Considerations when feeding beet pulp include:
- Individuals need to understand that beet pulp is a very dry product at only about 5% moisture. If a horse consuming beet pulp does not chew long enough or provide enough saliva, the beet pulp could cause choke. This is why most horse owners soak the product in water prior to feeding.
- Also, beet pulp is lacking in nutrients such as Vitamin A and Selenium. In a diet where a significant amount of beet pulp is fed, balancing nutrients can be a challenge. Keeping this in mind, beet pulp should make up just a portion of your horses diet, unless it is provided in a nutritionally balanced horse feed. “Nutritionally balanced” means vitamins and minerals are properly balanced with each other.
Learn about the benefits of feeding a beet pulp based horse feeds in our next article.
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