Beet Pulp: The Little Feed That Could

You might not think you could get excited about a seemingly insignificant feed called beet pulp, but as beet pulp's biggest fan, I can attest that this humble feed is by far the best work-horse of the equine nutrition world. Also known as the the black sheep of the equine feedstuff family, beet pulp has somewhat of a bad name, usually forgotten at the back of the feed store. Let me help you dust off that lonely feed bag and ignite a newfound passion for my friend, beet pulp.
Beet pulp is a by-product of the sugar beet industry. After the sugars from the beets have been extracted, the fibrous pulp of the beet remains and is processed into the livestock feed called beet pulp. Beet pulp is a great forage source with, on average, 10% crude protein. Beet pulp is generally packaged and sold in a pelleted or shredded form. Either form works great for feeding horses, but the pelleted form takes longer to soak in water before feeding. Beet pulp can be found plain or with molasses added. The addition of molasses increases palatability and decreases dust. For horses requiring low-sugar or low-starch diets, owners should opt for molasses-free beet pulp. The same goes for HYPP horses- because of the high amount of potassium found in molasses.
Beet pulp is a great forage feed for most horses, but it is especially beneficial to underweight horses, hard-keepers, and older horses. A highly digestible forage, beet pulp is optimally used in addition to a high-quality grain and hay diet to help pack on the pounds for underweight horses. Not only will it add calories to a horse's diet, but this feedstuff will also lower the possibility of your horse getting "hot" as it would on traditional high-starch feeds. Because beet pulp is generally soaked before feeding, it works well for older horses who have a difficult time chewing their food. It is important to note, however, that beet pulp is not suitable for growing foals and yearlings in large quantities as a stand-alone grain because of its high calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. For growing horses, it is best fed in addition to a regular feeding program.
Most horse owners have heard stories of horses eating dried beet pulp and choking, but the fact is that horses can choke on any feed. Beet pulp can even be found in some senior feeds that do not require soaking. However, because its dryness, it's better to be safe than sorry: soak your beet pulp first. Also think of it as an opportunity to increase your horse's water intake. Most companies recommend soaking in water prior to feeding anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. Check the label on your feed bag before you begin for specific instructions. Two parts water to one part beet pulp is a good place to start on your measurements. I've found some horses like it more soupy than others, so take your time figuring out exactly what your horse likes.
Beet pulp can be fed everyday in addition to your horse's normal feeding program to bump up his weight, or to help reduce excess energy caused by high amounts of carbohydrate feeds. I have very easy keepers, so this is not a feed source I use on a daily basis, but I always keep it on hand for times when I think my horses need more water. Very cold or snowy winter days are my favorite time to feed a small amount of beet pulp to my horses. I soak the water in my home in very hot water, let it steep and absorb, and then feed it when it's still warm. It helps them incorporate extra fluid on days that icy water from their tank is not enticing, and it also serves as a warm treat. In the summertime, be sure not to let your beet pulp spoil before feeding. A couple of hours in the feed room during a hot Oklahoma summer day is about all it takes to make your beet pulp slimy and rancid. I have even stored my soaked beet pulp in the tack room refrigerator as a cool treat for a hot horse.
Remember always to do your research before adding or changing your horse's feed regimen. If you have questions about feeding beet pulp, contact your veterinarian! Changing your horse's grain and hay is serious business since it can increase her risk of colic. Always transition slowly. And don't be afraid of the little-feed-that-could, beet pulp!

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About Allie
About Allie

Welcome to my blog! My name is Allie and my passion is caring for horses. My days consist of feeding, cleaning, and nurturing my two favorite things: horses and my little girl! I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures in equine ownership and life as a business-owning mommy!