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Beet Pulp: For Your Horse? What is beet pulp?

Beet Pulp: What Is It and How Can It Benefit My Horse?



Should You Feed Beet Pulp? By the Editors of EQUUS magazine

Beet pulp, the material left behind when table sugar is extracted from sugar beets, is a perfectly safe horse feed. Beet pulp contains lots of fermentable fiber and is fairly easy for horses to digest. It is often incorporated into "complete" or "high fiber" commercial concentrates as a source of fiber and some horse owners feed it as a separate "mash" for a variety of reasons, one of the most common being the belief that it is high calorie and will help horses gain weight. However, beet pulp is not high calorie--it has only slightly more calories than good quality hay and less than an equivalent weight of oats. Beet pulp does contain about 10 percent protein, 0.8 percent calcium and 0.5 percent phosphorus, making it a more "balanced" source of energy and fiber than the more traditional wheat bran (15 percent protein, 0.06 percent calcium, 1.3 percent phosphorus). The high fiber content may "normalize" fermentation in the large colons, resulting in more efficient "digestion" over all, which may be why many "hard keeper" horses that have a significant portion of their grain concentrates replaced with beet pulp seem to maintain better body condition. It has been used to replace over 50% of the forage in horse's rations without adverse effects when fed with other balanced concentrates. Be aware however that it has no Vitamin A and that if it is used to replace most of the forage in a ration, Vitamin A may need to be supplemented. Contrary to popular belief, beet pulp itself is not high in sugar. However some beet pulp products DO have added molasses to increase palatability, so owners with carbohydrate intolerant horses need to read the labels carefully. The improved palatability increases the rate of eating, which theoretically could raise the chance of choke. An enduring concern about beet pulp is that if you feed it to a horse dry, it will swell up after it is eaten and cause choke or colic. While some horses have choked after being fed shredded beet pulp, a fairly large university study did not document this problem. A horse can choke on any feed, given the right circumstances. For instance, if the horse is a greedy eater who bolts its food, has poor teeth, esophageal and/or swallowing problems, or lacks sufficient water to drink, he/she may be at increased risk. You can reduce the risk of a horse choking on any sort of feed--especially pelleted or cubed products--by soaking them in water prior to feeding. This is also a good way to encourage increased water intake, especially in the winter. Pelleted, extruded or shredded beet pulp product need to be soaked for old horses and/or those with severe dental problems. Sourced from:



Beet Pulp: What Is It and How Can It Benefit My Horse? WHAT IS BEET PULP? It is a low-cost by-product of the sugar beet industry that is commonly used as a fiber source in animal diets. Here is what shreds look like:

After the sugar beets are processed to extract the sugar from them, the pulp is the product that is left over. The pulp is a “waste product” of the sugar beet industry, and is therefore one of the more inexpensive feeds available to supplement in your horse’s diet, since the sugar beet industry would otherwise have to dispose of the pulp. Beet pulp is very high in easily digested fiber, while being very low in sugar. This makes it an ideal addition to any horse’s diet, especially those that have metabolic disorders. FORAGE SUBSTITUTE Because of the fiber content, beet pulp is considered a long-stem forage substitute. This means that it can safely be used as a hay or grass substitute. It is easily digestible, making it especially ideal for older horses or horses that have digestive problems. When substituting beet pulp for hay, the usual amount is to feed 1 pound of beet pulp for every 1.5 pounds 2

3 of hay being replaced. As an example, you would use 4 pounds of beet pulp to replace 6 pounds of hay in your horse’s diet. When used as a hay substitute, it should make up no more than 40% of the horse’s total forage. WHERE DO I FIND IT AND HOW IS IT PACKAGED? Beet pulp comes in two forms: shreds and pellets. Depending on where you live, one form may be more readily available than the other form, but both of them are used the same way. If you have both in your area, it comes down to personal preference of which to use. Most horse owners say that the pellets are easier to store (less dust and less space required), but most also say that the shreds soak more quickly. Many feed stores carry beet pulp, and if they don’t, they can usually order it in. You may also check farm stores or co-ops that don’t carry horse feed, as it is also commonly fed to other livestock. It generally comes packaged in 40 pound bags. HOW AND WHY DO I FEED IT? Beet pulp can be fed in addition to other concentrated feeds, or fed alone. It can be fed soaked or dry. Many horses will turn their nose up at beet pulp the first time (or first twenty times!) they encounter it in their feed tub. For some reason, it seems to arouse more suspicion in horses than any other feed. Because of this, I recommend starting with a very small amount of beet pulp and working up to the desired amount. It also helps if the it is mixed with a current feed, or something else (like a treat or two) highly desired by the horse. It is a great choice for mixing supplements into a finicky horse’s feed, as the supplements stick well to soaked beet pulp. It can also be used to add volume to a horse’s diet for horses that get very little other feed because they don’t need very many calories. Because it has a higher calorie content than most other forages, it can be effectively used to safely add calories to a horse’s diet by replacing some of the horse’s hay with beet pulp. DOES IT NEED TO BE SOAKED? There is much debate about if beet pulp needs to be soaked before being fed to a horse. Some people say all of it (shreds or pellets) need to be soaked at least 4 hours before feeding. Others say none of it needs to be soaked. Yet others say the pellets should be soaked while it is personal preference if the shreds are soaked. Studies have been done to show that soaked or not, it is no more likely than any other feed to cause choke in horses. So, basically, it is personal preference...or rather, your horse’s personal preference.


4 Some horses like it soaked for a few hours until it makes a soft mash, while others will eat it only completely dry. Then again, some will eat it only if it is soaked for a few minutes so that it is moist but still crunchy. If you choose to soak it, it is currently recommended to soak it no longer than 1-2 hours, especially in hot weather, as it can begin to ferment. If soaked beet pulp smells sickly-sweet like wine, it has begun to ferment and should be disposed of. MYTHS: Myth #1: Unsoaked, it will expand inside my horse’s stomach and explode. This is not true. Yes, it hugely expands when soaked in water. However, the inside of a horse’s stomach is filled with acid, not water. The instant beet pulp reaches the stomach, the process of breaking it down begins. Myth #2: Unsoaked, it causes choke. Also not true. Unsoaked beet pulp is no more likely to cause choke than any other feed. Choke is caused by a horse bolting his feed and it getting caught in the esophagus. If a horse has choked before, or is a bolter, ALL feeds should be soaked, not just beet pulp. Myth #3: It is high in sugar. Not only is this one not true, its actually the opposite. The sugar beet industry is the industry responsible for making table they take the sugar out of the sugar beets and leave everything else, EXCEPT the sugar. In fact, most feed companies add a small amount of molasses to beet pulp to make it more palatable to horses and to reduce dust due to the lack of sugar. However, even with this added molasses, beet pulp is still lower in sugar than most other components of your horse’s diet. Sourced from:



NEWS The Merits of Beet Pulp 2012/09/02 By Leigh Ballard Beet pulp is a byproduct from the processing of sugar beets. After sugar has been extracted, the leftover fibrous material is a great source of highly digestible fiber for horses. Beet pulp is about 18% crude fiber and about 10% crude protein. Other nutritional aspects like vitamins and minerals are unremarkable; the value is mostly in the fiber and the type of energy it provides. There are several benefits to feeding beet pulp. With its high fiber content, it is almost a forage, but it provides more calories than most forages. Beet pulp is high in calories, but lower in energy than grains. However, the energy in beet pulp comes from soluble fiber energy which is easily broken down to usable energy, unlike energy from grains’ carbohydrate sources. Therefore, beet pulp provides a “safe” source of energy. Beet pulp has excellent digestibility. Even though it is a little lower in fiber than hay, it can be used to substitute part of the forage ration and increase total calories fed. It can also be used to “dilute” a grain ration without sacrificing calories. It is a good product to feed for a “hard keeper” or a geriatric horse because it encourages weight gain. Beet pulp can increase total calories fed without increasing the risk of colic or founder. It has a low glycemic index which is good for horses at risk for metabolic disorders. In contrast, high glycemic feeds, like corn and other cereal grains, break down to glucose rapidly in the small intestine and cause spikes in blood glucose levels. Beet pulp causes very little rise to blood glucose levels, but still provides energy from fiber, which is broken down more slowly by microbes in the hindgut. Beet pulp does not contribute to “hot” behavior brought on by too much carbohydrate energy in the diet. It is a source of “cool calories” because of its low glycemic index. Many horse-owners are already feeding beet pulp without knowing it. Because of its good digestibility, beet pulp is a key ingredient in many well-known commercial feeds for senior horses, also called complete feeds, performance rations, and in formulas for those that need low sugar diets. When feeding beet pulp as a supplement to regular rations, soaking is recommended because beet pulp is 5

6 very dry. It is dehydrated for feed use since in its natural state it will mold easily. There is much misinformation and myth about beet pulp’s dry state. The most often heard myth is that it causes choke. While some horses may choke on beet pulp, it is bolting food that causes choke, not the food itself. That said, soaking for about 15 minutes is often enough and is not too inconvenient for most people; the added benefit is more water in the horse’s system. Beet pulp comes in pellets or shreds. For many horses beet pulp is an “acquired taste,” and as with any new feed, should be introduced gradually in small amounts to the normal feed ration. Resources: “The Myths and Reality of Beet Pulp” by Susan Garlinghouse Evans, DVM “Feeding Beet Pulp” by Karen Briggs, www.thehorse.comArticle #314 “What is Beet Pulp Horse Feed?” by Eric Haydt, Feed Your Horse Like a Horseby Juliet Getty, Ph.D. Sourced from:




Beet Pulp: For Your Horse? WHAT IS BEET PULP? Out in the farm fields of the mid-to-western US grow endless rows of rotund bulb-like root plants known as Beta vulgaris, or beets - sugar beets, to be exact. Beet pulp is the shreddy remains of these beet roots after a process extracts their sugar. The sugar is for the human populace; the pulp is fed to animals. HOW ARE SUGAR BEETS PROCESSED? Sugar beets are mechanically harvested then transported to the sugar factory primarily by truck (in the old days by horse and wagon, or train) where they are dumped in huge piles for storage until processing. The first step in processing takes the beets through a high-speed Shredded dried beet pulp is available plain conveyor/ and with added molasses. screening system that snips off any green leafy tops and shakes loose as much dirt and grit as possible from the plump roots. The beets are then put through a water washing system to remove the remaining dirt. Next the clean beets are sliced by large rotating cutters into long thin strips (like French fries) called cossettes. The cossettes are conveyed to and gradually moved through continuous "diffusers" that utilize disinfectant-treated, hot, moving, soak water (122 to 176 degrees F) to diffuse and extract the sucrose from the pulp. Then the beets and their sugars part ways. The cossettes, or wet pulp shreds, are drained and pressed to remove the diffusion water (which is recycled back into the diffuser). The sugary liquid, called raw juice, contains typically between 10 and 15 percent sucrose, and is channeled away to the juice purification and sugar-making operations, taking with it 98 percent of the beets' sugar. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE WET BEET PULP? The pressed pulp, containing about 75 percent moisture, may or may not get molasses (a by-product of the sugar-making process) added to it. Molasses can be added while wet and/or during the drying and/or pelletizing process; some processing operations add it, some don't. The pulp is then put in heated rotating 7

8 drum dryers (starting at 1700 degrees, decreasing to 700 degrees as the pulp dries) to dry it thoroughly (9 to 10% moisture). The heat-dried shredded pulp is sent to the dried pulp manufacturing operations to be bagged as shredded pulp or made into pellets for animal feed with molasses possibly being added again. Molasses adds palatability and contains iron and other minerals, but usually also contains preservatives. IS THERE ANY ORGANIC BEET PULP? In the US, unfortunately, no sugar beets are grown or processed organically. Herbicides are used during their growth, as are chemical fertilizers (the growing of sugar beets depletes the soil of its nutrients), fungicides, mold inhibitors, insecticides, and systemic insecticides. Sugar beets are hindered by several pests and diseases, but they generally have fewer problems with disease and pests when appropriate crop rotation is utilized. Consumers demand organically grown and produced foods Plain beet pulp shreds, dry for health and food safety reasons - for themselves and for their animals. Concerns about the environment and the effects of the intensive agricultural production systems are other well-founded reasons. When one considers the innumerable problems - pesticide residues and other toxins from chemical applications, the devastating effects of genetically engineered and genetically modified organisms (GE, GMO) which are in most foods without the consumer's knowledge, and the problems with bovine spongiform encephalopathy and hoof-and-mouth, etc. - buying "organically grown and processed", at least under the current (but shaky) definition, is the best and safest option. Genetically modified sugar beets have been produced and grown. However, due to market pressures (Japan, who buys about 80% of the US beet pulp, refused the genetically engineered beet pulp, and a prominent chocolate candy maker refused the sugar), GE beets are reportedly no longer being grown. DOES THIS PLANT HAVE A PLACE ON THE HORSE'S TABLE? Because it is a plant, and because horses are herbivores, Yes. It does have value as part of a horse's diet, as do many roots. Wild horses paw up roots and tubers to get them through the tough times. However, the fact that sugar beets are not "grown organically" means that the pulp contains toxins to some degree and lacks nutrients, and could be containing GMOs. If they are not "processed organically" it means that chemicals are likely added into the soak water or drying processes. Disodium cyanodithioimidocarbonate (DCDIC) is one microbicide/ microbistat specifically used as an industrial biocide and slimicide to control slimeforming bacteria, algae and fungi in the food processing water systems of beet sugar mills. DCDIC can be of concern for aquatic invertebrates depending on the location of the discharge sites. Although beets start out as a natural root, being "processed" puts beet pulp in the category of un-natural feedstuffs such as pellets and cubes and extruded "cooked" feeds (many of which, including beet pulp pellets, may contain indistinguishable unwanted ingredients). To get the full nutritional value from a food, with its natural vitamins and its enzymes and probiotics (for optimum digestion) intact, plants need to be eaten fresh and raw, or naturally air/sun dried (like hay) rather than heat dried. But in the case of the fresh sugar beet, as a food it doesn't make much sense for the horse - its high sucrose content would render it as 8

9 possibly only an occasional treat for a healthy horse (much better than giving sugar cubes or candies), or perhaps the leaves might be appropriate. Alas, the human sugar habit has produced an abundant byproduct that makes for suitable fodder, and horses can benefit from the palatable byproduct's availability, if fed appropriately. Please note that beet pulp alone does NOT fill all of a horse's nutritional requirements. WHICH HORSES CAN BENEFIT FROM BEET PULP? For horses who are underweight or are 'hard keepers', beet pulp fills the need for more feed without overfeeding grains, and provides an easily digested form of roughage. For horses on light or no work who are 'easy keepers', but in need of supplemental nutrients, beet pulp can be the feed into which his supplements are added, rather than using grain. Beet pulp (non-molasses) provides calories for energy without the sugars produced from the digestion of starchy oats and other grains, so as a feed for horses requiring low sugar intake, plain beet pulp may prove to be a mainstay. Beet pulp can be soaked, drained, and rinsed if it is suspected to contain unwanted molasses.

Plain beet pulp shreds, soaked approximately 20 minutes

Beet pulp, one of the lowest potassium-containing fibers, is a suitable addition to the diet of HYPP horses. Beet pulp can be valuable for the horse who has a sensitivity or allergy to hay or grain, or grasses. Such horses should be checked for sensitivity to beet pulp before feeding it. Hay and pasture are the horse's primary fiber sources, and fiber is required for gastrointestinal function and health. But if these cannot be eaten, or are in short supply, beet pulp is an excellent fiber option, for at least a portion of the ration. Wetted beet pulp can be helpful in travel situations if a horse doesn't want to drink the water in new places. If he likes beet pulp, he will probably accept it well-wetted with the strange water, which may help him get used to the new water's taste. For the elderly horse, or any horse who has difficulty chewing well, beet pulp's small shreds go down easy (once wetted with water or saliva), even if unchewed. Some caretakers who regularly use kinesiology/ muscle testing to evaluate various feeds for individual horses have reported that many horses respond negatively to beet pulp. There can be a number of reasons why, and periodic re-testing will reveal if the situation changes. Please note that horses with any of these difficulties can benefit from the help of a wholistic veterinarian/ practitioner with a whole-horse approach to the individual and situation, including complete nutritional guidance. Hay profiles are often the basis for devising or evaluating a nutritional program, so a laboratory hay analysis may be a requirement for nutritional guidance. 9

10 WHAT NUTRIENTS ARE IN NON-MOLASSES BEET PULP? Shredded beet pulp, without molasses, contains about 8% crude protein and about 20% crude fiber. Its basic nutritional values are similar to forage, but the fiber in beet pulp is more readily digested than typical grass hay fiber. Forage fiber is comprised mostly of insoluble lignin fiber, but beet pulp is comprised of high quality soluble fiber. This means that the bacterial population of the horse's hindgut utilizes the beet pulp fiber to make volatile fatty acids, an excellent, low-glycemic-index energy source that will not upset sugar metabolism. Oats, in contrast, do produce sugar from the digestion of their starch, and rich grasses and hays can contribute unwanted sugars. Therefore, beet pulp (without molasses or sugar) can be an excellent alternative energy source for horses with insulin resistance, polysaccharide storage myopathy, exertional rhabdomyolysis, and other metabolic disorders or conditions in which even a small amount of sugar may be a problem. Beet pulp is easy on laminitic and colic-prone horses as well. Nutritional breakdown of non-molasses beet pulp (variation occurs among manufacturers): Crude protein 6 - 9% Crude fat 0.3 - 0.7% Crude fiber 18 - 22% Sugars 0.3 - 0.4% Total digestible nutrients (TDN) 65 - 75% Megacalories per pound 1.3 Digestible protein 5% Calcium 0.75 - 1.72% Phosphorus 0.08 - 0.1% Magnesium 0.33% Potassium 0.36% Ash 6.22% Sulfur 0.38% Boron 45 ppm (parts per million) Manganese 86 ppm Zinc 21 ppm Copper 16 ppm Iron 308 ppm Aluminum 259 ppm Sodium 911 ppm Beet pulp - wet, dry, and as silage - is fed to cows, sheep, and other livestock and is becoming more frequently used in dog and cat formulas and treats. Beet pulp shreds are available in 40 lb. bags from most feed suppliers. DIGESTING BEET PULP The beet pulp shreds - wet or dry, mixed with feed or alone - are moistened with saliva as they are chewed, then swallowed. The acids and enzymes in the stomach start breaking down the food particles and proteins. The stomach contents move into the small intestine, where enzyme activity further breaks down the contents into nutrients that can be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the blood, and carried to the cells. What isn't absorbed, particularly fiber (beet pulp's main constituent), passes into the cecum (the fermentation vat), where it is broken down by microbes to produce certain vitamins and volatile 10

11 fatty acids that will be mostly absorbed by the large intestine (colon) where further microbial activity and absorption, including water absorption, occur. What's left undigested is passed as fecal balls, or manure. Although beet pulp is an enzyme-less, 'dead' processed food, its highly digestible soluble fiber enables the beneficial bacteria in the cecum and colon to thrive, thus ensuring very efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients in that part of the digestive system. GENERAL FEEDING DIRECTIONS: Beet pulp shreds can be fed alone or mixed with other foods. Beet pulp shreds can be fed dry. Horses who chew adequately and do not already have a problem with choke do fine with this. (See your wholistic veterinarian/ practitioner for treatment for horses who choke.) To feed wet, mix with pure water to moisten; soaking for approximately 20 minutes in water to cover is adequate. In the summer, however, it should be soaked for a minimum amount of time, because souring occurs more readily in the heat. Beet pulp, like any processed horse feed, may or may not be for your horse or your horse's situation. It has its advantages and disadvantages, and each horse should be considered individually. For many, it is proving to be a valuable addition to the diet - and in some cases, it is the best maintenance alternative. For more information: Glycemic Index of Practical Horse Feeds (Research Report) by Anne Rodiek, Dept. Animal Sciences and Agricultural Education California State University, Fresno Susan Evans Garlinghouse articles (very fun and informative): The Myths and Reality of Beet Pulp Beet Pulp Safety Warning (aka the famous squirrel story) Organic Consumers Association 218-226-4164 American Sugarbeet Growers Association 1156 15th Street, NW, Suite 1101 Washington, DC 20005 202-833-2398

American Sugar Alliance 2111 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600 Arlington, VA 22201 703-351-5055


12 ABOUT THE SUGAR BEET The sugar beet is a member of the family Chenopodiaceae (goosefoot family) and is a root vegetable (as are carrots and turnips). Root vegetables are cost-effective, nutritious food - not only do they grow well in a variety of climates, they also store well in cool, dark places for months (such as a root cellar). Nutritionally, they are packed because roots and tubers are the underground storage parts of plants, containing carbohydrates, some protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, micronutrients, and other nutrients important for health and longevity. The sugar beet, somewhat different from the common beet, has a large, round, sweet white root in which it stores its abundant sugar, or sucrose. Sucrose is created through photosynthesis in the leaves of the sugar beet, and then deposited in its root. The Greeks and Romans used the leaves as food and as a medicinal herb for headaches, inflammation of the eyes, and against venomous creatures. The chopped roots were believed to have great remedial powers during the Middle Ages and were used as a laxative/diuretic. Being a temperate climate biennial (2-year) root crop, the sugar beet produces its sugar during the first year of growth to feed itself through the winter; in its second year it flowers and goes to seed. Sugar beet crops are sown in spring and harvested in fall in the first year. Typical sucrose content for mature beets is by weight 17%, depending on climate, location, growing practices (crop rotation is beneficial), and variety of beet. Since the 1700s, selective breeding has increased the root's sucrose content from about 2% to as much as 20%. This exceeds the sucrose content in equal weight of sugar cane, but sugar cane puts out more yield per acre. Either way, the sweet tooth of America is kept satisfied by the busy sugar farmers - cane and beet. In the US, sugar beets are grown extensively from Michigan to Idaho and in California, accounting for more than half of the country's sugar production. Beet sugar accounts for 30% of the world's sugar production.




Feeding Beet Pulp by: Karen Briggs • May 01 1999 • Article # 314 Q: I've been told I should feed beet pulp to help put weight on my skinny Thoroughbred. But I'm worried about the stories I've heard about beet pulp expanding in the horse's stomach and causing colic -- or worse! Is beet pulp a good addition to my horse's diet, and if so, how can I feed it safely? A: 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. In terms of other nutrients, it's not a stand-out--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's excellent digestibility also makes it 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, although occasionally you'll come across one who considers it an acquired taste. In its original format, beet pulp is quite soft and prone to mold, so it must be dried for storage. You can buy dehydrated beet pulp in either a shredded or a pelleted format; either way, it's grayish-brown in color and has a slight but distinctive odor you'll come to recognize. Some companies add a touch of dried molasses to improve its palatability and energy content. Contrary to popular opinion, you don't have to soak beet pulp in water to feed it safely to horses--studies in which horses were fed dehydrated beet pulp, up to a level of 45% of their total diet, noted no ill effects whatsoever. Not only did the horses not "explode" (thus laying that myth to rest!), but they also suffered no signs of colic or choke, nor did the water content in their manure change. But most people prefer to soak beet pulp; it's more palatable that way, and less likely to cause choke. To soak beet pulp, 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. Let the bucket sit for at least a couple of hours before feeding; when ready, the beet pulp should have soaked up all of the water, increased in volume to fill the bucket, and be light and fluffy in consistency. (If you use beet pulp pellets, it's easy to tell whether it has been soaked sufficiently, because there will be nothing left 13

14 that resembles a pellet.) It's not necessary to soak it overnight. If you fextra water, don't worry; you can always drain it off before you feed, or you can feed the beet pulp on the "sloppy" side. Although most horses will eat beet pulp on its own, its appeal will be improved if you stir it into your horse's regular grain ration. As with any new addition to the diet, start with only a small quantity and gradually increase the amount you're feeding over a period of a week or so. 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. 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. I use beet pulp consistently in my own feeding program, both for my "bottomless pit" Thoroughbred and for my 28-year-old pony. It's an inexpensive, versatile feed with a number of benefits which easily outweigh the minor inconvenience of preparing it. Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.



The Myths and Reality of Beet Pulp Beet pulp is not only one of the most gratifying, but also one of the most frustrating feeds for an equine nutritionist. Few feeds have as many myths and evil predictions associated with it. "It'll swell up and rupture the horse's stomach", "It'll make them choke", "It has too much sugar", and "It has no nutritional value whatsoever" are just a few of the diabolical warnings floating around, none of which are in fact accurate. As with any other type of feed, understanding a little more about beet pulp's nutritional content and effects on the body will help a horse owner understand where this useful feed can most profitably be incorporated into an equine ration. Beet pulp is the by-product resulting from the extraction of simple sugars in the manufacture of table sugar. Extraction processes being as efficient as they are, the remaining pulp has little or no sucrose (table sugar) left in it and in fact, many feed manufacturers will add varying amounts of molasses to increase the palatability and reduce pulp dust. Although many horse owners are concerned about feeding "too much sugar" in the form of molasses, 5% in ten pounds of beet pulp is equivalent to only 86 grams of simple sugars-about the same as that contained in a few apples. Feeds are most commonly categorized as either a forage, an energy feed or a protein supplement. Feeds with fiber content higher than 18% crude fiber are considered a forage and include feeds such as all types of hay (including dairy-quality alfalfa or meal made from alfalfa), soybean hulls, almond hulls and ground corn cobs. Feeds that contain less than 18% crude fiber and less than 20% crude protein are categorized as an energy feed and include all cereal grains, wheat and rice bran, fats and molasses. Feeds which contain less than 18% crude fiber and more that 20% crude protein are categorized as a protein supplement and include feeds such as meals derived from soybean, linseed or cottonseed, brewers yeast, fish meal, sunflower seeds and dehydrated milk. Familiarity with these simple definitions is very helpful when comparing commercial feed mixes which often have vague or elusive label names or descriptions. Rather than trying to puzzle out whether a bag of Aunt Tilly's Super Barnyard Rocket Fuel is really going to help your horse gain weight or is just another bag of lawn clippings, a quick look at the crude fiber and protein content will identify whether the product is an energy feed or just fifty pounds of high-priced hay. So where does beet pulp fit into these categories? In fact, beet pulp doesn't quite fit neatly into either the forage or the energy feed categories. At 10% crude protein and 18% crude fiber, beet pulp sits right on the edge between being a forage and an energy feed. Most nutritionists will refer to and utilize beet pulp as a forage, and therein lies much of the advantage. Compare the energy content of beet pulp with other grain and forage sources: Feed Type Energy (Mcals/kg) Comparison to beet pulp Vegetable oil 8.98 385% Corn grain 3.38 145% Wheat bran 2.94 126% 15

16 Oat grain 2.85 122% Beet pulp, dry 2.33 100% Alfalfa hay, early bloom 2.24 96% Alfalfa hay, full bloom 1.97 85% Bermuda hay, 29-43 days growth 1.96 84% Timothy hay, mid bloom 1.77 76% Oat hay 1.75 75% Orchardgrass hay, late bloom 1.72 74% Notice that although beet pulp is higher in calories than any of the forages, it is lower in energy than any of the cereal grains commonly fed to horses. Does this mean that beet pulp is less valuable for providing calories than any of the cereal grains? Not necessarily. While beet pulp is lower in energy pound for pound than grain, it is also lower on the glycemic index than any of the cereal grains. The glycemic index is a comparative indication of the simple sugar content of a food source, and of its relative effect on plasma glucose. Feeds with a high glycemic index,such as corn (which is high in starch), break down enzymatically to glucose very rapidly in the small intestine, quickly elevate the blood glucose levels and in some horses, may contribute to "hot" behavior that make early-morning, high-octane starts about as much fun as riding the Space Shuttle bareback. More importantly, under some circumstances, high glycemic index feeds may create a condition referred to ascalled cecal acidosis, which can contribute to colic, enterotoxicity and laminitis. Feeds with a low glycemic index, such as beet pulp, are those that cause little or no sharp rise to blood glucose levels and generally provide most of their energy in the form of volatile fatty acids, the energy by-product of fermentation in the equine cecum and large colon. With the exception of fat (which is high energy but does not directly affect blood glucose levels), the above table gives a general ranking of glycemic index-grains and grain by-products in general being the highest, forages the lowest and beet pulp midway between the two extremes. Other than avoiding Rocket Rides, what difference does the glycemic index make? High-energy feeds like corn are still a more concentrated source of calories than beet pulp, right? Yes, they are-however, as mentioned above, high-glycemic feeds are also much more likely to cause nutritionally-related disorders such as colic, laminitis and polysaccharide storage myopathy. For these reasons, highly soluble carbohydrate sources must be fed in relatively small and carefully managed amounts to avoid the risk of intestinal upset. In contrast, the energy in beet pulp is primarily derived from both soluble and insoluble fiber-energy which is released relatively slowly after microbial fermentation in the cecum and large colon, as is the energy in other forage feeds such as hay. While hays can contain varying amounts of insoluble fiber, which affect its digestibility and energy content, a significant portion of the fiber in beet pulp is in soluble forms, such as pectin-the same substance that solidifies fruit juice into jelly. Pectin is still processed in the cecum, but is highly digestible and easily broken down to useable energy by the microbial flora. Since beet pulp does not contain large amounts of soluble carbohydrates which may cause intestinal upset, it can be safely fed in much larger amounts. less as the moisture content of the soaked pulp supplies considerable water. In either case, it is unlikely that fluid shifts from blood plasma to the interior of the gastrointestinal tract will be significantly different from those occurring with any other type of feed with similar moisture content. 16

17 Aside from its energy density, beet pulp is also a relatively good source of calcium. Though not as high in calcium as alfalfa at 1.2%, beet pulp is sti ll a good source at .62%-higher than any other commonly fed horse feed except for dehydrated milk. While beet pulp probably does not contain sufficient available calcium to offset a high-phosphorus ration, due to beet pulp's oxalate content (which binds some of the calcium into an unavailable form), it is still a reasonable nonalfalfa source of calcium to help balance calcium-phosphorus ratios. In addition, beet pulp does not contain excessive protein as does alfalfa. This adequate, but not excessive, level of calcium makes beet pulp a useful supplement for horses being fed a grass or cereal grain hay diet. Although most grass hays contain an acceptable ratio of calcium to phosphorus, orchardgrass, some grain hays and even individual crops of normally balanced hays can be slightly inverted below recommended levels. In addition, rations containing significant amounts of grain or bran (especially rice bran) can further create imbalances. By including several pounds of beet pulp as part of the daily ration, horse owners can supply an additional source of calcium to help ensure a balanced calcium-phosphorus ratio in the ration. A final word on providing beet pulp to horses-it comes as no surprise that horses are creatures of habit and will often eye a new addition to their feed tub as Poison Until Proven Otherwise. Many owners have tried adding beet pulp to their horse's ration, only to have it stared at in horror, ignored or promptly dumped. Even if eventual plans are to feed the beet pulp dry, initially soaking a small amount of pulp until it becomes juicy and more palatable, and then mixing with grain or other already accepted feed, will usually help overcome reluctance on the horse's part to trying something new. Eventually, after a day or so, most horses will deign to try the new feed and will soon be climbing over fences to get their fair share (or preferably, more than their fair share). At that point, amounts may be gradually increased and soaking may be tapered off until dry pulp is accepted equally well. Once the pulp is being regularly consumed, it may also be utilized as a useful method for "hiding" many other additions such as vitamin supplements, fats or medications. Copyright Susan Garlinghouse, 1999.

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