On Mythbuster Monday, we tackle a variety of equestrian myths to either bust or confirm. Today’s discussion: Is beet pulp more effective for weight gain than alfalfa?
It’s Mythbuster Monday, where Horse Nation dives into different equestrian myths and provides research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: Is beet pulp more effective for weight gain than alfalfa? Do horses prefer to eat it rather than alfalfa? Is beet pulp easier to digest? Read further to find out!
Myth: Beet pulp is more effective for weight gain than alfalfa
Myth or Fact: Both
Alfalfa is an important forage crop used for grazing and hay. It has been grown and used for hundreds of years to feed livestock. Alfalfa has been prized for its increased content of vitamins, minerals and protein compared to other feed sources.
Beet Pulp is the fibrous material left over after the sugar is extracted from sugar beets. It is high in digestible fiber and a good source of “safe” structural carbohydrate-based calories, making it a popular option to feed horses.
BUT, which is better for weight gain?
According to Equinews the average digestible energy of alfalfa ranges from 0.933 to 1.191 Mcal/lb and the average digestible energy of beet pulp ranges from 1.105 to 1.293 Mcal/lb. According to these numbers, beet pulp is more energy dense. However, in this article they state that both options are great sources for putting on weight.
An article by Own the Horse outlines the differences between alfalfa and beet pulp. Alfalfa slowly discharges its nutrition, which aids in sustaining weight over time. Beet pulp is easier to digest for horses who are hard keepers or older but it gives nutrients more instantly.
Equine nutritionist, Kelly Vineyard discusses beet pulp in this article. She states that beet pulp is a highly digestible form of fiber which is greater than or equal to most hays. She then goes on to explain that beet pulp’s energy value is higher than alfalfa and is therefore a great source of fiber and calories to aid in better body condition. Also mentioned in her article is that beep pulp is a better option for horses who are more likely to experience digestive upset.
Nicky Ellis wrote an article on the pros and cons of feeding beet pulp and states that beet pulp is a smart addition to almost any horse’s diet. She states it’s a good choice for fiber for senior and at-risk horses. A horse that has respiratory issues and can’t eat forage due to the dust that accompanies it can eat beet pulp and obtain high amounts of protein that they would normally obtain from hay and alfalfa.
Ellis also states that beet pulp is an exceptional way to provide extra calories without adding a lot of starch and sugars to the diet. It’s a great option for horses who need to keep weight on but are more prone to laminitis.
In an article discussing the differences between beet pulp and alfalfa pellets it is stated that each product is used for specific reasons, that one is not better than the other. They are two different products that give two different results.
Alfalfa is a great choice when wanting to gain muscle mass on your horse. Beet pulp on the other hand puts on fat weight. If a horse needs weight it ideally needs both beet pulp and alfalfa.
After diving into the research, beet pulp is more energy dense than alfalfa. However, the two work in different ways for weight gain so using them both together will give the best results.
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