SUCCEED® Blog:

Where #SeriousHorsePeople come to better understand digestive health in horses and its impact and management.

Monday Myth: Beet Pulp is High in Sugar & Shouldn't Be Fed to Horses

sugar-beetsIf you’re driving through Minnesota, Michigan or North Dakota in late September or October, you might notice harvesters working hard to get that year’s supply of sugar beets into trucks and on the way to storage facilities. Sugar beets are naturally high in sucrose, so sugar beet farmers primarily grow the white tubers to provide an alternative to growing cane sugar.

Beet sugar sucrose is commonly used in food for humans, but you may also feed sugar beet — or beet pulp — to your horses (or know someone who does). Horses generally gobble up the dark, fibrous-looking stuff, making many horse owners believe that the feed must retain a high level of sugar. After all, beet pulp is made from sugar beets, right?

Actually, it’s a myth that beet pulp is high in sugar. To understand why beet pulp can — and should — be a part of your feeding regimen, take a closer look at what it’s made of. This high-fiber, non-heating feed is actually much lower in sugar than you might expect.

What is Beet Pulp?

Sugar beets are root vegetables that grow to about 12 inches long and typically weigh about two to five pounds when harvested. After sugar beets are harvested, they’re processed to extract the sugar. Beet pulp is a fibrous byproduct of sugar beets, after the sweet stuff has been taken out. Along the way, it’s chopped or sliced, and then dried to prevent it from molding. You can buy it in either a shredded or a pelleted format. Some companies add molasses to increase palatability, but it’s not recommended, as this can be detrimental to the horse’s digestive system.

Why to Consider Feeding Horses Beet Pulp

Since it’s technically a waste product from the sugar extraction industry, beet pulp is relatively inexpensive. But it’s also a complex carbohydrate that is fermented in the hindgut, making it a good choice to help enhance hindgut health. It’s an excellent source of digestible fiber and has a similar calorie profile as oats — but with fewer starches and sugars to cause problems if they reach the hindgut undigested. That makes it a good choice for hard-keeping horses, or for any horse that can’t spend all day outside grazing on high-quality forage. It’s also a great source of fiber for horses that may have dental problems, as soaked beet pulp is easy to chew.

How to Feed Beet Pulp to Your Horse

There’s an ongoing myth that feeding beet pulp can cause your horse’s stomach to rupture, as adding water to dried pulp causes it to increase in size. But, not to worry: unsoaked beet pulp will not cause your horse to choke, colic or explode.

However, most horse owners prefer to soak beet pulp before feeding. Mix beet pulp and water in small batches, and don’t leave it for more than 24 hours during warm weather, as it could begin to ferment. In the wintertime, it could freeze. In addition to increasing palatability, soaking beet pulp also helps hydrate horses.

Like any other forage, beet pulp can be fed alone or mixed with other feed. Just be sure to start with a small amount, and gradually increase it over time.

Beet Pulp is Not High in Sugar

Beet pulp is a great option when you want to add fiber and forage to your horse’s diet without adding excess sugar and starch. So while the sweet stuff is readily extracted from sugar beets, rest assured that it’s a myth that beet pulp is a high-sugar food for horses.

Photo Credit: 20120106-OC-AMW-0362 by U.S. Department of Agriculture. Used by permission via CC BY 2.0.

Leave a Comment:

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Related Articles:

+
The Summer Run’s Impact on a Rodeo Horse’s Gut Health

The notorious “summer run” in the world of rodeo is the most demanding time of the year for competitors and their performance horses. It’s not abnormal for rodeo athletes to travel more than 20,000 miles, […]

+
Meet Kassidy McKee, Professional Barrel Racer

Oklahoma native and barrel racer Kassidy McKee is no stranger to the world of rodeo. While most people must wait until they are 18 to hit the professional rodeo trail, Kassidy’s had a front-row seat […]

+
How to Feed Speed Horses

Your horse’s diet plays a pivotal role in how fast it can be and how consistently it can run at its best. If you and your horses are barrel racing, breakaway roping, or competing in […]

+
In Memoriam: Dr. Kenneth Hill

By John Hall I’m sad to report the passing of Dr. Ken Hill, the last of the triumvirate that developed SUCCEED. Ken was Professor of Equine Sports Physiology at Limerick University in Ireland. He ran […]

+
Can I Feed SUCCEED on Racing Days?

SUCCEED is a nutritional approach to managing your horse’s digestive health, including the stomach and the hindgut. It’s designed to keep your horse’s entire GI system healthy, which positively impacts many aspects of wellness as […]

+
Pro Rodeo Barrel Racer Sissy Winn

Texas-based WPRA barrel racer Sissy Winn is the 2021 Texas Circuit Finals Championship, and she’s already starting at the top for 2022. Her sights are set on qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo—and she’ll feed […]

SUCCEED Digestive Conditioning Program is a nutritional approach to managing the horse’s digestive health, including the stomach and the hindgut. Learn More

succeed veterinary formula

SUCCEED Veterinary Formula, available only from veterinarians, is an advanced version of SUCCEED and comes backed by the SUCCEED Healthy Gut Commitment. Learn More