Little review on (sugar) beet pulp! It has been asked many times
so here it comes!
Well, we absolutely love it!
Sugar beet pulp is a by product of sugar industry where actual sugar
has been removed, and the rest of the beets structure processed,
dried and used in many feed industries as a fiber source. It is
highly used in cattle feeds where usually small amount
of the sugar (molasses) is soaked back in to the pulp to enhance its palatability. Molassed beet pulp is used with horses too but actual plain pulp has gained its popularity among horse owners because of its low sugar content. Depending on manufacturer, sugar content varies between 4 - 7 %. This is bellow the famous limit of 10 % of sugars that is often mentioned when we are talking about feeding horses with for example obesity, IR or PSSM. So, it fulfills the demands of a safe feed for metabolic horses.
Why to use beet pulp?
Beet pulps secret lies in its structure. It reminds us more of roughage than concentrate feeds. Its nutritional content is not mind blowing but it has a good set of carbohydrates, which most of it is hemicellulose. Hemicellulose is highly digestible fiber but it needs to be fermented in order to be digested. So, this means good food for the microbes! Because of its low WSC (water soluble carbohydrates) content it doesn’t stress the gut or expose it to strong pH alterations but gives that good, slow energy for the horse when fermented gradually in the hindgut. Beet pulp fibers stimulate the growth of favorable microbes thru out the digestive tract. For this reason, it is very suitable for horses with diarrhea, bloating, sensitivity in the digestive tract and for horses in rehabilitation (colic, surgery, ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease etc.).
Because of its good fiber composition, you can often see beet pulp in the ingredient list of multiple fiber-based feeds. It is a fairly cheap ingredient and it works in many levels to support the well-functioning digestive tract. BUT today, it is common to have horses on already quite complex feeding plans and if for some reason horse’s digestive tract starts to act up (for example over feeding, change of roughage, stress, illness etc.) it is good to have something simple, neutral and fiber rich on our reach.
"This is why I love using beet pulp. To neutralize stressed gut environment
and to simplify already too complicated feeding routines".
Beet pulp is usually recommended to be fed soaked. It is dried in its processing to maintain a good hygienic quality. Wet pulp starts fermenting quite quickly and also to grow mold. So be careful when preparing the pulp for your horse. There are studies made on feeding pulp dry vs. soaked and they haven’t found that big of a difference. Still, we do not recommend to take the risk since beet pulp is know to expand and to tie considerable amount of water when soaked. Feeding dry beet pulp raises the risk of chocking and impaction in the digestive tract. You can soak the pulp in cold or warm water but we never recommend to use boiling water (with any horse feeds). We see so many stables with water boilers only used to boil water for feeds. Hot water will break the structure of valuable nutrients and turn them inactive (for example vitamins and oils). So, a big no no - to boiling water while prepping your horse’s meals.
Different manufacturers process the pulp little bit differently and this creates variation between the products. Here is some “take home tips” about beet pulp and choosing the right product for your horse and your stable regimes:
1. Check the sugar content. Is it just beet pulp or is it pulp with added molasses? If you do have a horse with any signs of metabolic problems we suggest to find pulp with the lowest sugar content.
2. Is the pulp flaked or pelleted? What is the particle size approximately? The smaller the shreds are, likely the more water you need to add to soak it.
3. What is recommended soaking time? Some of the beet pulps take hours to soak them. This usually means that the shreds are quite bulky and the particle size is big. All manufactures should inform at least a minimum soaking time but if its not mentioned, take the matter in your own hands and make a test patch. You can time it and also this way you can see how much water you need to add.
4. Test the palatability. Un molassed beet pulp is known for its not so favorable taste. This is because our beloved horses love all the sweetness they can get and now we are offering them something with barely any sugar. But regardless of that, it is safe to mix with any other feed you might be serving to your horse because of its neutral consistency. A lot of our customers mix their beet pulp with mash, minerals, vitamin supplements, grains or other feed products to make the beet pulp taste more familiar.
Examples of different customer groups that I like to use beet pulp as an alternative to the diet:
1. Senior horses with slower metabolism and weak digestion.
2. Hard keepers and rehabilitation horses from malnourishment. Beet pulp will give good quality energy and also enhance the microbial activity in the digestive tract. This way it will also bump up the digestion of other feeds and roughage. Hence horses are likely to start gaining weight.
3. Horses with known metabolic problems.
4. Horses with severe problems in their gastrointestinal tract, sensitivity to form gases, sensitive with roughage changes and allergies. Sensitive horses might react negatively to strong and versatile feeds. Using beet pulp we can slowly accustom the digestive tract to additional feeds and with time, introduce more denser products.
As an example, I want to mention EquiGlo´s 10 minute beet. It is high quality and its consistency is good. Because of the technique of flaking, it soaks in just 10 minutes. This lowers the risk of possible contamination of the feed.
Because of its good pricing, it is also value for your money.
Here is some information quoted from
EquiGlo`s own webpage:
EQUIGLO Quick Soak 10 MINUTE BEET is a natural, ﬁbre-rich feed that can be safely fed to all horses and ponies. It is made from sugar beet roots after the sugar has been extracted, with the dried beet ﬂaked to ensure rapid soaking. Horses and ponies need a ﬁbre-rich diet, and 10 MINUTE BEET offers an ideal complementary feed to forages, including grass, hay and haylage.
Highly palatable and versatile feed for all horses and ponies
Low in starch and sugar so ideal for sensitive horses and ponies, and those who require extra metabolic, digestive or muscle support
Helps maintain good hydration
Provides an excellent supply of non-heating, steady energy for working horses and ponies, and can reduce starch levels in hard working horse diets when used as a replacement for more traditional hard feed
Provides a calm, non-heating* method of condition gain for thin horses
Enhances the digestion of structural fibre e.g from hay, in the hindgut
Rich in calcium, and ideal balancer for straight cereals and bran
Convenient, easy to prepare quick-soak
More hygienic in hot weather than 24 hour soak beet
Suitable for all year round feeding
A natural British superfood for all horses and ponies
* A non-heating feed is one that is less likely to produce excitable behaviour in some horses and ponies when fed at the recommended rate
Eira Jokela, MSc. Edison´s Equine Nutrition