Beet Pulp Fact and Fiction

I’ve written about beet pulp in the past as a forage alternative in the past, but there are so many misconceptions about this type of feed that I feel it deserves its own post.

Beet pulp is the fiber that remains when sugar is extracted from beets. It is high in fermentable fiber and is easy for horses to digest. When hay is scarce, it is an excellent forage alternative (or supplement) because it adds fiber with relatively few calories.

Lots of people are already feeding beet pulp, but may not know it. Beet pulp is one of the primary ingredients of Purina Strategy, Blue Seal Vintage Victory, Triple Crown Complete, Triple Crown Growth, and Legends 12 Maturity and Racing Formula, for example. But many people choose to feed it separately, as well, and here’s where the questions arise.

True or false?

  1. Beet pulp should never be fed dry as it will expand when eaten and cause the horse’s stomach to rupture.
  2. Beet pulp should never be fed dry as it will cause a horse to choke.
  3. Feeding beet pulp dry will draw moisture from the horse’s blood and intestines and cause dehydration.
  4. Feeding beet pulp is an excellent way to put weight on a horse.
  5. Feeding soaked beet pulp helps increase hydration.
  6. Beet pulp has no nutritional value; it’s just a “filler” feed.
  7. To soak beet pulp you must add at least twice the amount of water than beet pulp.
  8. You must soak beet pulp for at least 30 minutes before feeding.

So, how did you do? My answers are based on several research reports and my own experience (having fed beet pulp to three horses).

  1. False. While beet pulp soaks up water like a sponge, if fed dry it will not expand in a horse’s stomach and cause a rupture or colic. Even if it did expand, a horse’s stomach holds 2-4 gallons. It would take between 4 and 9 pounds of dry beet pulp to fill a horse’s stomach. That’s a lot of beet pulp!
  2. False in general, but sometimes true. There is no research data that feeding dry beet pulp is any more likely to cause choke than other dry feeds. Pelleted beet pulp is more likely to cause choke than shredded beet pulp, probably because of the pellet size and the horse’s eating behavior.  However, dry beet pulp should not be fed to horses that are prone to choke, such as horses that bolt their food and it’s important to always have plenty of water available to all horses when they are eating.
  3. False. Eating dry beet pulp is not any different than eating any other dry feed.
  4. True. Beet pulp is effective at putting weight on horses. It has slightly more calories than decent hay, but fewer than oats, so it is a “cool” feed, adding calories without making a horse too hot.
  5. True. Soaking beet pulp before feeding is an excellent way to increase your horse’s water intake, especially during the winter when horses may not drink enough.
  6. False. Beet pulp provides more energy than hay and less than grain but it has the advantage of having a low glycemic index which means it provides “cool” calories.
  7. False. There is no recipe for mixing beet pulp. If you want it feed it wet, you just need to add enough water to cover it and get it to “fluff”.
  8. False. There is no magic amount of time to soak beet pulp. I generally soak beet pulp for about 15 minutes before feeding and have had no problems. Adding warm water also shortens the soaking time. In the summer, you need to be careful about soaking beet pulp too long, as it can go “off” in the heat.

I currently feed beet pulp to both my horses. I’ve been feeding it because I got a shipment of hay that’s stemmy and dry and which they don’t like that much. I do soak my beet pulp because I find it to be a great way to make sure my horses eat their powdered supplements. I have, in the past, fed it dry with no problem to a mare who was the absolutely slowest eater I’ve every seen. There was no danger of her bolting her food. Plus, I mixed it in with her pelleted food. Eventually, I switched her to Purina Ultium discontinued feeding beet pulp separately.

A few more resources on beet pulp:

The Horse: Feeding Beet Pulp

7 thoughts on “Beet Pulp Fact and Fiction

  1. Awesome informative post. We are just starting our 2 mares on beet pulp tonight after our vet gave us the idea last week. We’ve been searching the internet for additional information and this post is one of the best I’ve read – very informative. Thank you!

  2. I have been feeding my horses beet pulp for two years now. It really does help with the prices of hay so high. I also mix the grain with it. They seem to like it better. But it is hard to get ahold of these days. So of the places i have been buying it, told me they are only allowed so much per week. And it is a first come basis. They won’t even hold it for me. Even if I want to pay for it up front. So alot of times, I can’t even get it. So when it is there, I get all of it I can. The great thing about it, is that it won’t mold in the summer humidity.

  3. I felt I had to add a post because I do not agree with it. First of all I and my family have been breeding, racing and competing horses for generations. I would never recommend or use beet pulp one of the reasons why is because of the process it goes through. When seperating the sugar from the pulp chemicals and bleaches are used ie. it is the whitening process, and the left over scrap is the pulp. I love my horses and I would never feed them this. I give my horses natural products that are not GM and no chemicals thank you. Alfalfa pellets/bales, Carob, Hay, and fruit treats are a great way to feed your horses naturally! There is also very little nutritional value in Beet and it is only a filler. If you cannot afford to buy the right natural products for your horse then you should not have a horse. I have never had a problem with any of my horses, and they also keep their teeth to a good old age.

  4. I totally realize that this is an older post of yours…but I just want to thank you for it! We hear SO much negativity about beet pulp – it’s nice that you’ve waded through the rumors and truths.

    I also plan on following you on twitter. (:

    Keep up the good work!

  5. dear,
    plz tell me the nutration values of beet pulp .
    i am live in pakistan.
    enery value,protien level,fat, and things

    1. Nutrient Composition
      Digestible Energy 1,080 kcal/lb
      Crude Protein 7.0%
      Crude Fat 0.50%
      Crude Fiber 18.2%
      Calcium 1.09%
      Phosphorus 0.07%
      Starch + ESC1 12.0%

Leave a Reply