AskHQ: Beet pulp

Q: Why is beet pulp good for horses?

A: Beet pulp is a great feed for horses. It is an energy-rich source of digestible fibre that helps to promote and maintain a healthy microbial hindgut population, keeping the digestive system healthy.

Beet pulp is a byproduct from the sugar beet industry. Sugar beets are grown and harvested to make sucrose and sugar, and beet pulp is the material left over once the sugar has been removed. Beet pulp, therefore, has the advantage over most other feeds of being low in sugar, which means that, provided extra sugar has not been added, it is safe to feed to horses that require a low-sugar diet.

In addition, beet pulp is also considered a prebiotic, meaning that it is beneficial to the microbes in the horse’s hindgut. A well-functioning, healthy microbiome contributes to overall horse health.

Another advantage of beet pulp is that it can help underweight horses to gain weight as it is quite energy dense. This is because after fermentation in the hindgut the beet pulp releases volatile fatty acids as a by-product. These volatile fatty acids are then absorbed and turned into energy. This energy does not cause a spike in glucose or the corresponding spike in insulin, and is released slowly. Therefore it is unlikely to make a horse ‘hot’ in the process of putting on weight.

Despite these benefits, however, beet pulp should never be the sole fibre source in the diet. Beet pulp is low in protein, does not contain many vitamins and is low in other minerals (apart from calcium). This means that beet pulp alone does not provide sufficient nutrition. However, it can be a great addition to the diet, and provided instructions are followed regarding soaking and use of the product, it is a safe feed.