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What’s the Scoop about Beet Pulp?

This high-fiber feed may be the answer to your horse’s dietary needs.

Midwinter is often the time we start to receive calls about nutrition. Clients are usually concerned about a horse that is losing weight. We often recommend adding fat in the form of vegetable oil or simply adding more calories using the feeds already being consumed. A good rule of thumb is to add a flake of hay per 1,000-pound horse for every 10° that fall below 20° Fahrenheit. Hay and pasture are a horse’s primary sources of fiber, and fiber is extremely important for equine gastrointestinal health.

Another excellent source of fiber that gets lots of press is beet pulp. Beet pulp is the by-product of the sugar beet industry. It is the fibrous remains of the beet, which are left once the sugar is extracted. So, not only is it a good feed, it is a great way to make use of the rest of the plant after it has been processed for human consumption!

Beet pulp is fed by the scoop and usually tossed in the grain bucket. At 22% fiber and about 8% protein it resembles average grass hay. The perk with beet pulp is that the fiber contained in it is more digestible by the horse’s gut than hay. This means that, pound for pound, the horse gets more calories from beet pulp than he does from hay. In addition, if a horse has an inability to chew well, beet pulp is in a form that is much easier to eat and does not rely so heavily on being broken down first by the teeth.

Most people agree that it is safest to feed beet pulp that has been well soaked in order to avoid esophageal obstruction (choke). During the cooler months, soaking beet pulp before feeding is usually not a huge issue, as we do not have to worry about spoilage. In the summer, however, it should be soaked for only a short amount of time, because once it sours it will not entice any horse’s palate.