Last Updated on February 19, 2022 by Allison Price
The horse’s hindgut is home to fiber fermentation, which provides energy for growth, work and play. Horses eat mainly pasture and hay. However, there are other forages that can supplement energy and benefit their digestive system. They also have fiber that horses with difficulty chewing traditional forage. Beet pulp is one such alternative forage. Kathleen Crandell Ph.D., Kentucky Equine Research nutritionist, says “Beet pulp, an energy-rich source digestible fibre that helps foster a healthy microbial community in the hindgut.”
Sugar beet industry byproduct: Beet pulp The sugar beets are harvested and grown to make sugar and sucrose. beet pulp, which is the leftover plant material after the sugar has been removed, is a byproduct of the sugar beet industry. Beet pulp is low in sugar due to the way it’s processed.
“Dried beet pulp products can usually be purchased with or without added sugar. Unmolassed beet pulp shreds has a sugar content less than 10%. This makes it safe for horses who need a low-sugar diet. Crandell explained that shreds with added molases have an average of less than 15% sugar.
Beet pulp can be considered a prebiotic. This means that it benefits the many millions of microbes living in the horse’s hindgut. A healthy microbiome is important for overall health. Beet pulp is not a good source of fiber, despite its prebiotic benefits. Beet pulp has a low protein content (typically 8-10% raw protein), and is rich in calcium. However, it is low in vitamins and minerals. Crandell noted that while Nutrient requirements of Horses showed no adverse effects on horses who ate 45-55% of beet pulp, it is not enough to provide adequate nutrients.
Beet pulp is a good choice to aid horses who are underweight. One quart of beet pulp shreds can weigh between 0.5 and 0.6 pounds. Volatile fatty acids (or VFAs) are byproducts of the microbial fermentation beet pulp. These VFAs are absorbed and converted into energy. The energy is not released quickly to provide a steady supply and does not cause an insulin spike or spike. Because of its high energy density and benefits to the microbiome, beet pulp is common in commercial grain concentrates.
You can also top-dress beet pulp with a supplement. Because beet pulp is moist, it’s a good idea to soak it in water. When fed properly, dry shreds won’t swell in the stomach or throat. Soaking beet pulp pellets is recommended because of their hardness and the large volume change once they are wet.
Horses can become choked by beet pulp. This is a common problem. Choke can occur from any feedstuff, even forages, that is eaten greedily and not properly chewed.
Summary: Beet pulp can be used to increase energy and promote digestive health in horses. Ask a KER nutrition adviser if beet pulp is right to your horse.