If you own an equine suffering from some
type of metabolic disease, you have undoubtedly wondered about the
benefits and risks of feeding beet pulp in lieu of grain products.
There are now plenty of good, low NSC (Non Structural Carbohydrates)
feed mixes available but many of them are either very expensive, or
hard to get and must be special ordered. Some feed mills are
reluctant to order, or they require you to buy them in bulk. Feeding
beet pulp is a nice alternative for you and your metabolic horse.
Beet pulp comes in a variety of forms Ė pellets, crumbles,
and shreds are the main types available in the United States. You
can also find an Alfalfa/Beet Pulp feed called Fibre Beet, which is
imported here from the UK. Fibre Beet pellets are square and flat.
Whichever form you decide upon, make sure that it is available with
NO MOLASSES. Beet pulp is often coated in molasses to increase
palatability. It is possible to soak and rinse this variety of beet
pulp, but thatís just one more thing you have to do everyday. My
preferred brand is Standlee Beet Pulp Pellets. It is affordable and
has a guaranteed low NSC of around 6%.
Beet pulp costs around
$11-16 per 40 pound bag, which surprisingly lasts a LONG time. Much
longer than 40 pounds of grain would last. Beet pulp swells and
soaks up water so you have a lot more bulk going into the horse than
the same amount of calories made up in grain. This makes it perfect
for metabolic horses or those on weight restricted diets because not
only does it add beneficial water to the digestive system, but it is
very filling and satisfying. Feeding 1 cup of soaked beet pulp
(expanded to about 4 cups) is far more satisfying than 1 cup of
grain or dry pellets. Traditional grains like corn and oats are NOT
safe for the metabolic horse.
The nutrition profile of beet
pulp places it squarely on the scale between being a forage and a
grain. It is very high in fiber but the caloric count is low. One
item to note though is that it is deficient in Vitamin A so good hay
or pasture (if the horse can tolerate grass), is also an important
part of the diet. Using vitamin supplementation programs, many
horses have been successfully maintained for years on beet pulp as
the main forage in the diet.
So How Do You Feed This Stuff??
There is a lot of controversy regarding whether to soak it or not
soak it. Horses can choke on dry beet pulp but still there is a sect
of the horse world that believes horses will only choke on it if
they have a history of choke. NOT TRUE. My motherís horse choked on
dry beet pulp so badly that she had to place an emergency call to
the veterinarian, and that horse had no prior history. I just say
SOAK IT. Beet pulp (in any form) is dry and hard. Some horses eat it
dry without any incidents but the benefits of soaking it far
outweigh the benefits of feeding it dry, in my opinion.
you buy the no-molasses form, all you need to do is throw it in a
bucket with either hot or cold water and leave it sit for for
anywhere for 2 or 3 minutes to a couple of hours. If however the
only type available to you is augmented with molasses, you must soak
it and then drain it, and preferably rinse it a couple of times to
remove all the molasses. This can be accomplished with a large
mixing bowl and a colander. It is not too difficult to do it this
way, and not very messy, but if you are feeding very large
quantities, it could be problematic.
Most horses will readily
eat soaked beet pulp, but if your horse has difficulty accepting it,
give him only a small amount, mixed with some of his regular grain
to start with. Also, adding a teaspoon of ground cinnamon or
fenugreek. Some horses accept it with a tablespoon of salt added.
The wetness of soaked beet pulp makes it perfect for mixing any
other supplements into as well.
Shreds - Crumbles -
Which should you
When you decide to soak and feed beet
pulp, you first need to decide how much to feed your horse per
day. A good place to start is usually about 1 cup of shreds,
or 1/2 cup of pellets or crumbles. You want to start off small
and increase later. Just like any new food, introduce it
slowly for the best result. Eventually a mature, 1,000 pound
horse can safely consume up to about 40% of their total fiber needs
in soaked beet pulp. This is something you want to discuss
with your veterinarian and equine nutritionist. Every horse
and every situation is different. You have to be careful not
to overfeed beet pulp because it is more calorie dense than the
average grass hay.
The most common questions people new to
beet pulp ask is "How much water do I soak it in?" "How long
do I have to soak it?" "How much will it yield once
soaked?" I conducted a highly scientific
experiment......ok so it's not very scientific........on how much
water, and how long to soak beet pulp. The type of beet pulp, and
the temperature of the water are the two things you must
consider. But I will break it down very easily for
To start the experiment, I meausred
exactly 1 level measuring cup of shreds, pellets, and crumbles into
3 separate bowls. Technically the BEST way to measure any kind
of equine feed is by WEIGHT, not by cups, scoops, coffee cans, or
handfuls. But the truth is - busy boarding barns and horse
owners find it very difficult to weigh everything out on a carefully
calibrated scale. So I have simplified this by simply using
the measurement CUP. (1 level dry measuring cup)
Next I let the tap water run as hot as
possible and took the temperature - exactly 110 degrees.
I added exactly 1 liquid measuring cup of
110 degree tap water to each bowl.
Then I set the timer for 1
Made a glass of iced tea........stirred
each bowl once..........
And this is what the experiment looked
like after exactly 1 minute:
The compressed pellets are the slowest in
absorbing water. Only the outer layer of the pellets has begun
to absorb the hot water. 90% of each pellet is still dry and
hard as a rock. The shreds have water standing in the bottom
but they have become soft and fluffy enough to eat. The
crumbles has become the consistency of grape nuts cereal but is
still somewhat firm and crunchy on the inside of each
The bowls were left to rest 1 more
Within 2 minutes, both crumbles and
shreds have absorbed 100% of the water they were given. The
pellets are still sitting in a pool, though a bit more water has
Next I added 1 additional cup of water
measured to be exactly 110 degrees, to each bowl.
I continued checking on the progress of
the experiment every 30 seconds for the next 2 minutes or
At this point the shreds have stopped
absorbing water completely. The crumbles have absorbed all the
water they were given. The shreds are fluffy and moist all the
way through. The crumbles are now the consistency of hot
oatmeal cereal and are thoroughly soft throughout.
The pellets however are still hard and
dry in the middle and they have absorbed all the water
I added 1 more cup of 110 degree water to
the pellets and waited. And waited and waited and
waited. They absorbed all of that and but a few pellets were
still hard and dry in the middle so I gave them an additional 1/2
cup of 110 degree water.
At this point the pellets have expanded
so much they had to be transferred to a larger bowl:
The total time elapsed is 30 minutes
before the pellets have FULLY absorbed every bit of water, and are
thoroughly fluffed, saturated, and soft.
At this point I checked each bowl and
discovered that the shreds were standing in water that was never
absorbed. I drained off the water from the shreds and it
measured exactly 2/3 cup. There was NO additional water in the
bottom of the crumbles or the pellets.
YIELD OF SOAKED FLUFFED BEET
Shreds: 2 Cups
Crumbles: 3 Cups
AMOUNT OF WATER
Shreds: 1 1/3 Cups
Pellets: 3 1/2
Crumbles: 3 Cups
TOTAL TIME NEEDED TO SOAK IN HOT
(110 DEGREE) TAP WATER
Shreds: 2 Minutes
Crumbles: 5 Minutes
Compressed pellets are the hardest,
driest, and take the longest to soak but they absorb the most water
and produce the highest yield. 1 level cup of dry fluffs to 5
The shreds are quickest but absorb the
least amount of water and produce the lowest yield.
Crumbles take only a couple minutes
longer than shreds to soak but absorbs more water and produces a
little higher yield.
A NOTE ABOUT
I have seen people
comment about all that "dark sugary water" they drain off their beet
pulp shreds. I just want to clarify that beet pulp is full of
tannins, which is the same organic compound which
gives tea it's dark color. Please do not mistake the dark
brown water for being molasses. Even non-molasses beet pulp
will yield dark brown tannin laden water when soaking is complete.
SOAKING IN COLD
In the future I will conduct this
experiment again but I will use cold tap water instead. Beet
pulp takes much longer to soak in cold water but exactly how much
longer, and how much water is absorbed will be determined in the
experiment. Stay tuned!