Benefits of beet pulp for horses and livestock
Sugar comes from two main crops in the United States, sugar cane and sugar beets. So, what is beet pulp? Beet pulp is, you guessed it, the pulp left over from the sugar beet once the sugar has been removed, and is commonly used as an ingredient in animal feeds. This super fiber is a high energy, low protein and high fiber source, a great addition to horse, cattle, sheep and goat diets.
Here in Southern Idaho, we are in prime sugar beet growing country, as Idaho is the third largest sugar beet producing state in the United States. They are planted in late March or early April, and harvested in late September and throughout October.
5 Common Beet Pulp Questions
- Question – Do beet pulp pellets and shreds really need to be soaked?
Answer – No, BUT… If your horse is naïve to beet pulp, has dental issues or has a tendency to eat their feed quickly and not thoroughly chew it, then it IS advisable to soak beet pulp shreds or pellets prior to feeding. If the horse is new to your stable it is always recommended to soak feeds until you become familiar with the horses eating patterns. It is also recommended to feed soaked beet pulp to horses to increase their hydration status. This can be ideal especially during the fall and winter when water intake decreases and dry forage intake increases.
- Question – Does beet pulp make a horse's stomach expand if it isn’t soaked?
Answer – Any ingredient fed to horses will begin to fill the stomach. Un-soaked beet pulp will expand in the stomach, but it will not cause the stomach to expand or rupture. It just may be uncomfortable for the horse.
- Question – Does beet pulp contain sugar?
Answer – Beet pulp is a by-product of the sugar beet, in which the sugar is extracted from. With that said, there is still a very small residual amount of sugar left in the pulp. Some beet pulp has a very small amount of molasses added to it as a means of eliminating dust and making it taste better to the horse. Still concerned about feeding even the smallest amount of added sugar if you have a horse sensitive to sugar in the diet? It appears that beet pulp with added molasses is acceptable as a low sugar fiber option, if the beet pulp has been soaked and rinsed, prior to feeding. Research supporting soaking and rinsing beet pulp pellets and shreds, to reduce the sugar content can be found here.
- Question – Does Beet Pulp help with or prevent sand colic?
Answer – Any fiber source (pasture grass, hay and even beet pulp) can move a very small amount of sand and debris through the digestive tract. However, horses that have sand in their digestive systems need more drastic measures to clear the sand. Probably the best option is psyllium products, which form a sticky fiber that binds and moves sand through the digestive tract. So, how can we best prevent sand colic in our horses?
- Feeding high quality forage
- Feeding off the ground or in feeders on mats
- Feeding in stalls rather than outside on sandy soil
- Question – Does beet pulp help with weight gain?
Answer – Beet pulp works very well to support underweight horse, cattle, sheep or goat diets, due to being a high calorie (providing energy without excess sugar), supplemental feed.
Straight from the Horse’s Mouth
Check out our most recent webinar below, "Beet Pulp – What Is It and Why Do Horses Need It?". Dr. Cubitt also added some more information on the topic in a nutritional white paper.
Webinar attendees have shared some encouraging comments with us over the year that we’d like to share with you:
This was a very well prepared and presented webinar! The slides were most helpful and Dr. Cubitt was clear and concise in her explanation (in terms everyone could understand)."
Thanks for a high fact, low hype webinar - worth the time! "
This is the first webinar I have joined and am happy that I did; I look forward to more."
Thank you for taking the time and using your expertise to educate horse lovers."
Thanks for providing valuable info to horse owners. This was my first webinar, but not my last. Glad I started using Standlee products this year."
If you’re looking to determine the best mix of forage, manufactured grain-based feed, oil and/or beet pulp for your horse, check out the Standlee Feed Calculator®.
We do our best to address what we can in the time and space that we have, so leave us any questions you have on beet pulp in the comments that we didn’t get to above. Let us know how we can better serve you and your four or two legged friends!