Beet pulp is a mainstay of many feeding programs for horses. This highly digestible feed is a good source of soluble fiber that supports hindgut function and helps meet energy requirements.

Beet pulp is a by-product of sugar extraction from beets and is typically low in starch and sugar. However, some products contain added molasses which increases the sugar content of the feed and may be unsuitable for horses with metabolic disorders such as equine metabolic syndrome or Cushing’s Disease.

Rinsing then soaking beet pulp in water improves the palatability of the feed for some horses. This practice also reduces the sugar content of molassed beet pulp when rinsed until the water runs clear. However, most horses can safely consume dry beet pulp, including in pelleted form.

Beet pulp is also a good source of calcium, but it is low in phosphorus and other trace minerals. To ensure your horse receives a balanced diet, a vitamin and mineral supplement should be fed alongside beet pulp.

Beet Pulp for Horses

Beet pulp is a highly palatable, fibrous feed that can be added to many equine diets. It is a by-product of sugar and ethanol production that is widely available at a reasonable cost.

After sugar extraction, the remaining beet pulp is typically dried to reduce mold growth. Dry beet pulp can be purchased at most feed stores in North America and is available in shredded or pelleted formats.

A key benefit of this feed is its versatility. Beet pulp can be fed to a wide range of horses, from performance athletes to older horses with dental issues, due to its soft texture when soaked.

Dry beet pulp is also available with added molasses, which increases the energy content and improves palatability for some horses.

Beet Pulp for Horses

 

Nutritional Profile

The nutritional profile of beet pulp varies depending on the specific processing method and the ingredient source. Check the feed tag or guaranteed analysis for the specific product you are reading to determine its nutritional content.

Digestible Energy

Beet pulp is a good source of digestible energy for horses who need additional calories in their diet. Dry, unmolassed beet pulp provides approximately 2.8 megacalories (mcal) per kg of dry matter.

This means that it supplies more calories than a typical hay (2 mcal / kg), but less than a cereal grain such as ground corn (3.85 mcal / kg).

For context, a mature horse that is not exercising requires 16.65 mcal of digestible energy per day, equivalent to 6 kg (13.2 lb) of dry beet pulp.

Soluble Fibre

Beet pulp is a desirable feed because it is a good source of soluble fibre. This soluble fiber comprises polysaccharides, large complexes of various sugars, that act as a prebiotic in the horse’s hindgut.

The soluble fibre content of beet pulp includes pectin which is a branched structure of various sugars, representing 15 – 20% of beet pulp dry matter. [23][24]

When the horse eats beet pulp, the soluble fibre remains intact as it transit through the stomach and small intestine. In the hindgut, various microbes breakdown the fibre through a process known as microbial fermentation. This produces volatile fatty acids (VFAs) that can be used as an energy source by the horse. [7][8][30]

Soluble fibre in beet pulp are broken down by beneficial fiber-digesting microbes in the horse’s gut. This process creates a favorable environment in the hindgut for fermenting other fiber sources, such as hay. As a result, it helps maintain a healthy pH level in the hindgut, particularly when beet pulp is used as an alternative to cereal grains. [10][11]

Protein Content and Digestibility

The protein content of beet pulp is similar to a mid-maturity grass hay. Beet pulp typically contains 8 – 11% on a dry matter basis. [25]

However, the protein in beet pulp is less easily digested in the small intestine than other common protein sources. This means less amino acids will be absorbed from the gut and your horse may need additional protein sources in their diet to fully meet their protein and amino acid requirement. [7]

In addition, the amino acids from beet pulp were better utilized in the hind gut, meaning they were used by the microbes and are not available to the horse.

Growing horses, lactating or pregnant mares, and heavily exercising horses can benefit from the inclusion of beet pulp in their diet to supply soluble fiber. However, these horses are likely to require additional protein sources such as alfalfa hay or soybean meal, on their hay analysis and the rest of their diet.

Mineral Content

Beet pulp provides a high concentration of calcium, an important electrolyte mineral involved in bone health and muscle function.

However, horse owners should note that beet pulp has a high calcium to phosphorus ratio, approximately 10:1. Ideally, a horse’s diet should maintain a lower ratio between these minerals, ranging from 2:1 to 6:1 in adults and between 1.2:1 and 2:1 for growing animals.

Equine feeds that contain beet pulp typically have added phosphorus sources to ensure these minerals are well balanced. If you are feeding beet pulp on its own, you may need to provide additional phosphorus in the form of wheat bran or monosodium phosphate.

Monosodium Phosphate

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