High Performance Hoof Care - Hoof Trimming and Rehabilitation by Vickey Hollingsworth
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Beauty of Beet Pulp
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Beet Pulp for your Metabolic Equine

Beet pulp shreds, pellets, and crumbles.

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.

If 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 - Pellets
Which should you choose?

Beet pulp shreds, pellets, and crumbles, prior to soaking.

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 you:

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 minute.

Made a glass of iced tea........stirred each bowl once..........

And this is what the experiment looked like after exactly 1 minute:

Beet pulp shreds, pellets, and crumbles 1 minute after adding 1 cup of 110 degree water

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 crumble.

The bowls were left to rest 1 more minute.

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 been absorbed.

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 so.

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 given.

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:

Beet pulp pellets transferred to a larger bowl during experiment.

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.


Shreds:  2 Cups
Pellets: 5 Cups
Crumbles: 3 Cups


Shreds: 1 1/3 Cups
Pellets: 3 1/2 Cups
Crumbles: 3 Cups


Shreds: 2 Minutes
Pellets: 25 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 cups.

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.

Final yield of shreds, pellets, and beet pulp crumbles.



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.

Beet pulp water full of TANNINS.



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!