Beet pulp has a bad reputation that's somewhat undeserved. It's actually a great feed for horses that need to put on weight and those who require feed that doesn't make a horse's blood sugar spike and dip. I liked feeding it soaked over the winter as I felt it was a nice change for the horses who ate nothing but dry hay, and put a little extra moisture into them. It also reduced the amount of hay they ate. Distance riders like it for getting moisture into their horses when they are working hard. Beet pulp doesn't have all the nutrients that a horse needs, so it should only be a portion of a horse's diet.
1. What is Beet Pulp?
Beet pulp is what is left of a sugar beet after it has been pressed to remove the moisture. The resulting liquid is processed to make sugar, and the leftover pulp is shredded or pelleted and used for livestock and is an ingredient in cat and dog food. Sugar beets don't look like the common garden beet, but like very large, lumpy white radishs. Beet pulp for horses is sometimes mixed with molasses so it tastes better. Triple Crown Feeds, manufacturers of horse feeds explains in depth, what beet pulp is and why it can be a good addition to a horse's diet.
2. Is Beet Pulp Safe to Feed?
Beet pulp in its dry form has been blamed on causing colic and choke. One myth is that eating dry beet pulp can cause the horse's stomach to rupture. However, eating too much of any feed can cause colic and pelleted feed of any kind can cause choke. If your horse bolts its food you will have to be careful with any form of pelleted or extruded feeds. To slow the horse down you can soak the feed, put large rocks in its feed tub it must pick around or try a something like a Pre-Vent Feeder. If your horse eats a belly full of beet pulp or any other concentrate, perhaps because it escaped its stall and broke into the feed room, it will be in danger of colic and laminitis. But beet pulp is no less safe than any other feed.
3. Is Beet Pulp Good for My Horse?
It's been thought that beet pulp is really just a filler. But it is a very digestable feed and great for horses that have insulin problems like Cushings, horses that have dental problems like missing teeth, or are otherwise 'hard keepers'. The Myths and Reality of Beet Pulp by Susan Evans Garlinghouse, DVM, MSc explains the nutritional benefits of beet pulp.
4. How Do You Feed Horses Beet Pulp?
Although you can feed dry beet pulp, I enjoyed feeding soaked beet pulp during the winter months. I mixed one part beet pulp to four parts water. If you want to feed quickly, you can use hot water and it will expand within fifteen minutes. Just be sure it's cooled off before feeding. When it was very cold, I found it would freeze to the bottom of the feed tubs so I had to make sure I only made enough that could be eaten in a short time. In hot weather, beet pulp will mold and ferment, so store it in a very dry spot. Again, don't let it sit wet in feed tubs as it will ferment quickly. Ontario Dehy Inc., manufactures of beet pulp for horses recommends feeding up to 1.5 to 2% of your horse's body weight per day.