by Shari Zachrich of Mars Horsecare US, Inc.
Beet pulp comes from sugar beets, which may sound familiar, as they are included in many human sweets and treats. Common table sugar typically comes from either sugar beets or sugar cane; however, in the US most of the sugar comes from beets. Beet pulp is the remaining material after the sugar is removed. Beet pulp contains a lot of pectin (a gel-like substance commonly used to make jelly and preserves) a very digestible fiber found in many fruits that is proven to promote intestinal health and is recommended in human nutrition to lower cholesterol (this is one reason sticky hot oatmeal lowers cholesterol).
After the sugar is extracted from beets, the remaining pulp is dried to kill off a majority of mold spores allowing for a longer shelf life. After drying, the pulp can be made into many forms such as pellets, crumbles, shreds, and cubes for use in human and animal feeds. In the horse, beet pulp fiber is highly digestible, and very comparable to many types of high quality forages. Because of this ingredient’s digestibility and hindgut health benifits, it makes for a great way to add energy to a diet, with out all of the added starch. Its sweet nature allows for increased palatability for even the pickiest eaters. Beet pulp is often recommended for horses that need to gain weight but have attitude issues with grain products. Other benefits of feeding beet pulp are because of the low starch and moderate sugar content, it can help decrease symptoms of tying up, laminitis, and EPSM compared to traditional grain-based feeds. The low starch and moderate sugar content can help to keep blood glucose response levels low.
Physically, older horses with poor teeth can benefit from the soaked beet pulp, however, finding a balanced ration with the beet pulp already included in it is always the best option. Because beet pulp is fairly high in calcium, it can cause some imbalance issues with a ration that is not properly tailored to keep adequate phosphorus levels in check. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (heaves) and other respiratory problems can be helped by adding beet pulp in the diet. The dust in the feeds complicates these problems but by soaking the beet pulp, these issues can drastically be reduced. Other benefits of soaking beet pulp are to increase water intake in your horse’s diet and also because the beet pulp swells as it is moistened, horses with weight management issues can feel more satiated as a result.
Overall, beet pulp has been utilized in horse rations for over 20 years due to its many benefits for a variety of issues in horses. Metabolic, weight, respiratory issues, older horses, horses with poor teeth; the list goes on and on. Beet pulp is low in starch, high in fiber, highly digestible, very palatable, easy to store, and of reasonable cost. It’s a valuable part of any equine feeding program.