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Beet Pulp Tips

Beet pulp is the fibrous material left over after the sugar is extracted from sugar beets. It’s an excellent source of digestible fiber, with a relatively low crude protein content (averaging 8 to 10%), comparable to good-quality grass hay. Its digestible energy is somewhere between that of hay and grain. It has a relatively high calcium content and very little phosphorus, is low in B vitamins, and has virtually no beta-carotene (the precursor of vitamin A) or vitamin D. Its chief value is as a soft, easily digestible supplement to your horse’s roughage (fiber) intake, and as such it’s a useful addition to the diet of many types of horses.

Consider feeding beet pulp if your horse is a "hard keeper" (it’s very good for encouraging weight gain), if he has dental problems that make chewing hay difficult, if the quality of your hay is poor, or if you have a geriatric horse who has trouble chewing or digesting other types of forage. It can be fed in addition to, or instead of, hay. Beet pulp also is a great choice for a convalescing horse—one recovering from illness or surgery, for example. It even can be fed warm in the winter months, just like a bran mash (and nutritionally, it’s a better choice than bran). Most horses find it quite palatable.

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to soak beet pulp in water to feed it safely to horses, but most people prefer to, it’s more palatable that way, and less likely to cause choke. Place the shreds or pellets in a bucket and add twice as much water as pellets. You can use cool or warm water; some people feel it soaks a little more quickly using warm, but be careful not to use water so hot that you cook the beet pulp, because that will destroy most of the nutrients it contains.

Because beet pulp is really a fiber supplement, not a grain, you can safely feed as much as you like; if weight gain is the objective, you may find yourself going through a gallon or more a day. Fortunately, beet pulp is a relatively inexpensive feed, so you don’t have to be sparing with it. I personally use beet pulp with the addition of psyllium pellets to safeguard against sand accumulation, and have found that it gives me the satisfaction of knowing the horse is eating ALL the psyllium, and receiving the best benefit I can provide, for peace of mind.

It’s best to make up beet pulp in small batches—just enough to feed in a single day. In the hot summer months, especially, soaked beet pulp left to sit tends to ferment, significantly changing its odor and flavor. If this happens, it’s best to throw it out and make a fresh batch. Generally soaked beet pulp will keep for about 24 hours; in the winter, you may be able to stretch that to 48 hours or so.

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