Last Updated on March 6, 2023
Are you confused about the pros and cons of beet pulp for horses? If so, you are not alone – many horse owners don’t understand the benefits of this useful food source for equines!
Keeping your horse at a healthy weight can be a constant struggle, as we try to balance enough energy to prevent them from losing weight without running the risk of obesity. Many factors can lead to a horse losing or gaining weight, and some medical conditions make the situation even more complicated.
Generally, horses gain most of their nutrients from grass and hay, but we often need to give them extra food to meet additional nutritional requirements.
So, if your horse needs extra food, is beet pulp the answer? Let’s find out with our guide on the pros and cons of beet pulp for horses!
How Much Beet Pulp to Feed for Weight Gain?
Beet pulp is a great choice for horses that need to put on weight or have difficulty staying at a healthy weight due to its soft texture and easy digestion. It also provides higher levels of energy than good-quality hay, it provides approximately 1,000 kcals per pound.
If you have a mature horse who is maintaining its current body weight, supplementing its regular ration with 4 pounds of beet pulp each day will likely result in a daily weight gain of approximately 0.5 pounds. Thus, you should adjust your horse’s feeding program to accommodate the incorporation of beet pulp
Beet pulp, being a fiber supplement rather than a grain, can be fed to your horse in any quantity desired without exceeding 50% of his forage intake, i.e., for every pound of forage removed from the horse’s diet add a pound of beet pulp.
What is Beet Pulp?
Beet pulp is a byproduct of the sugar industry. Sugar beet is processed to extract the sugar, and the left-over pulp is dried and sold as a foodstuff for animals.
This pulp is normally shredded or made into pellets, to make it suitable as a food source for horses and other livestock. Beet pulp feeds intended for horses often contain molasses (Standlee Beet Pulp), but are also available without (Simple System Purabeet).
Many horse owners steer clear of beet pulp, as they think it might be unhealthy for their horses. However, it has some surprising benefits, as we will find out!
What Nutrition Does Beet Pulp Provide?
To understand the pros and cons of beet pulp for horses, we first need to learn about the nutritional value of beet pulp for horses. All horse feeds provide varying levels of nutrients, and getting the correct balance of nutrients is the key to a healthy horse.
The first thing to point out is that beet pulp is classed as a forage feed, not a concentrate. Concentrate feeds for horses include high-energy cereals and grains. Beet pulp is normally added to concentrate feeds but makes up part of the daily forage ration alongside hay, chaff, and grass.
Here are some of the key nutritional aspects and benefits of beet pulp for horses:
- Beet pulp is an excellent source of calories but is low in sugar and carbohydrates, unlike sweet feed or other grains making it a good supplement for sucrose-sensitive horses.
- According to Kentucky Equine Research, it provides approximately 1,000 calories per pound and only has 15% sugar (10% for molasses-free versions).
- High in fiber and considered a prebiotic, beet pulp is safe and beneficial to introduce into a horse’s digestive system.
- Irrespective of how beet pulp comes, be it dried, shredded or pelleted, it is normally soaked before being fed to horses. This introduces more hydration into your horse’s diet without diluting the nutritional quality of the feed.
Is Unsoaked Beet Pulp Safe for My Horse?
One of the most common concerns surrounding beet pulp for horses often centers around the dry status of this packaged forage. Historically there have been concerns that beet pulp, if unsoaked, will absorb liquid from the digestive system. This will cause it to expand, potentially causing dehydration or an overly full stomach.
Another concern raised with beet pulp is that the unsoaked flakes or pellets can become lodged in the esophagus, where they will expand and cause choke. But are these concerns true, or is it all a myth?
Recent advice from veterinary experts suggests that unsoaked sugar beet does not pose a risk to horses, so you do not need to panic if your horse accidentally eats some dry beet pulp. However, most horse owners prefer to soak it to make it more palatable and increase the water intake of the horse.
Luckily, soaking beet pulp is not the time-consuming task it used to be! Old-fashioned pellets often needed to be soaked for 24 hours, while modern quick-soak versions need just 10 minutes soaking before they can be fed to your horse.
How Much Beet Pulp To Feed A Horse?
The quantity of beet pulp to provide to a horse is dependent on various factors such as the workload of the horse and its other food sources. Beet pulp is high in soluble fiber and carries a similar amount of protein to premium-grade hay, yet is higher in energy.
According to equine nutritionists, the recommended forage ration for a 1200–pound horse can be partially replaced with beet pulp. As such, 12 pounds of beet pulp and 12 pounds of other forage should be given to the horse daily, making up a total of 24 pounds of forage.
Beet pulp producers advise not exceeding 2 percent of your horse‘s body weight daily when it comes to feeding. To begin with, give your horse around 0.5 percent of his body weight – 6 pounds for a 1200–pound horse – and work your way up.
You can also read our detailed article on feeding beet pulp to your horse.
Pros and Cons of Beet Pulp for Horses
So, what exactly are the pros and cons of beet pulp for horses? Is this a foodstuff we should consider adding to our horse’s diet, or something to steer clear of? Let’s find out!
The main advantage of beet pulp for horses is that it can be used alongside concentrate feed to add extra forage to the diet. It is a good source of fiber and is low in protein, giving it a nutritional profile similar to good quality meadow hay.
The main situation where beet pulp is fed to horses is when additional energy is needed to maintain body weight, but where additional concentrates would be undesirable. For example, an older horse that loses weight during the colder winter months would benefit from some extra beet pulp in its diet. However, feeding beet pulp for weight gain in horses is not always a good idea, as we shall find out.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of beet pulp for horses:
Advantages Of Feeding Beet Pulp To Horses
- A useful source of additional forage: While hay and grass are the ideal sources of roughage that keep horses healthy and happy, beet pulp is a relatively inexpensive additional option. Beet pulp can be fed alongside concentrates to add extra fiber to the diet and maintain the healthy functioning of the digestive system.
- Beet pulp can be fed alongside hay when you can’t seem to meet up with the desired amount of hay your horse needs. This is particularly useful in horses that have lost weight but cannot be fed high-energy concentrates.
- Certain dental conditions or allergies can exclude baled hay from an equine diet. In this situation, beet pulp can serve as an excellent additional source of forage, providing energy and fiber in a form that is easily swallowed and dust-free.
- Maintains digestive health: Beet pulp is full of fiber which is essential for your horse’s gut health.
- Fiber is also a slow-release and long-lasting source of energy for equines, making it ideal for horses in moderate work.
- During the digestive process, fermentation of beet pulp in the horse’s hindgut produces essential byproducts like volatile fatty acids, which increase the overall health of the horse.
- Suitable for horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome: Molasses-free beet pulp is low in sugar and can be fed to horses with EMS. However, it is not advisable to feed beet pulp to horses that are overweight or obese.
- Molasses-free beet pulp is an acceptable forage substitute for alfalfa in horses with HYPP (hyperkalemic periodic paralysis), a condition that affects the horse’s sodium channels and causes fluctuating levels of potassium in the body.
Disadvantages Of Feeding Beet Pulp To Horses
- Add Don’t Replace. Beet Pulp is not a supplement for other forages or feeds, and only should be added to supplement calories and fiber. It is an excellent additional source but does not contain enough nutrients to replace hay or grain on its own.
- Time. Often recommended to be soaked in both shredded and pelleted form, beet pulp is not the quickest option when it comes to feeding time. Shreds and pellets can take several hours to soak to a palatable level for the equines.
- Not for “easy keepers.” If you have a horse or pony that doesn’t require much to keep on weight, beet pulp is likely not the best option for you. It contains a larger amount of calories than easy keepers are likely already getting in their diets. Beet pulp is comparable to good quality meadow hay in terms of calorific content, and this palatable food can quickly lead to weight gain.
We recommend these horse supplements:
- AniMed Pure MSM Supplement for Horses
Summary – Pros And Cons Of Beet Pulp For Horses
So, as we have learned, there are many different pros and cons of beet pulp for horses! Beet pulp is a form of forage for horses that has similar nutritional content to good quality meadow hay, making it a good food source for horses that lose weight easily. The high fiber content helps to maintain digestive health, and it is a good source of slow-release energy for horses in moderate work.
However, beet pulp should not be fed to horses that are overweight or obese, as it may lead to further weight gain. Care should be taken with beet pulp containing molasses, as this can be unsuitable for horses with medical conditions such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome or Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis. Although beet pulp can be fed to horses unsoaked, it is preferable to soak it to increase palatability and increase your horse’s water intake.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the pros and cons of beet pulp for horses! Are you a fan of feeding beet pulp to horses or do you think it is a bad idea? Perhaps you’ve got some questions about the best way to feed beet pulp to horses? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
Can a horse eat too much beet pulp?
The amount of beet pulp that a horse should eat depends on the size of the horse, its age, and how much energy (calories) it needs to maintain an appropriate weight. Beet pulp is an excellent food source for horses because it contains vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are essential for their health and well-being. It can be fed as an additional source of forage, either alone or alongside concentrates such as grains.
If a horse is fed too much beet pulp on a long-term basis, then it may gain weight or suffer from digestive problems such as colic. Beet pulp should never be fed alone as the main source of forage, as it is not nutritionally balanced.
What feed helps a horse gain weight?
For a horse to gain weight, their diet should contain the right amount of protein and a good balance of carbohydrates. A feed that is high in protein can help a horse grow muscle and gain weight. Feeds for horses that help them gain weight include alfalfa, beet pulp, and oats.
Feeding a horse may seem like an easy task at first glance, but horses have specific dietary needs that are based on their age, breed, type of work they're performing, local climate, and the time of year. If you are concerned that your horse is losing weight, the best course of action is to ask your veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist for advice.
Can beet pulp be bad for horses?
Beet pulp can have many benefits for horses, but it also has some disadvantages that are often overlooked.
Beet pulp is a plant-based food source that is used as a natural source of fiber for horses. It is not toxic to horses and can be fed as an additional food source to help maintain a healthy body weight. However, it should be noted that beet pulp has a low protein content so it cannot be used as a substitute for other feeds.
The main downside to beet pulp is that it has a high-fiber content, so if too much is fed to horses, or they are already prone to colic, they may experience stomach discomfort and digestive issues.
Beet pulp can also create gas in the horse’s intestines, which can lead to colic. Colic is very painful for the horse and can quickly develop into a life-threatening condition if not treated promptly.
Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.