Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The skinny on beet pulp
I was really surprised how much our trip across the country took its toll on both horses. Not that I was silly enough to believe that it wouldn't adversely affect them but in my previous travels with ponies, we didn't see the kind of weight loss that Cuervo( sweet boy) showed. He actually started to loose weight when we arrived. Now I'm no alarmist, but when I can see the shadows of his rib bones on his coat from the kitchen window, well, I freak out. So I start out kinda slow giving him more grazing time, adding 1/3 more hay to the piles I'm throwing, etc etc...nothing was happening...well that's not true Boo was gaining weight...grin. Anyway after weighing and throwing out several options I decided on fat first as a "quick" weight gain tool. Oil was going to be to dicey in this climate. Even if it didn't go rancid in the bottle, his dish would be a nightmare to keep clean with out a good dish washing twice a day, to inconvenient ( and to hard to explain to pet sitters. One must think ahead.) So a stabilized rice bran pellet by Nutrena was the winner! After reading the label and consulting with a Nutrena rep. on line, I began with only a 1/2 cup of the product twice a day. Like all fats, it could cause diarrhea. Not something I wanted to risk with an underweight horse. As I worked my way through two and a half weeks of this gradual increase, I was not noticing any change. He looked stringy and bony, his neck was shrinking and he was leaving hay in his stall. Darn it! So back to research my options. I was still increasing the fat, but wanted more weight gain from fiber and since neither seemed to be drinking like they used to in CA, I figured I would up the beet pulp I had always used t0 sweeten their buckets. I remember it being used back in Maryland to help hard keepers maintain weight, and to get more water into the horses in the winter. Nothing like a steamy warm bucket of beet pulp and bran to warm a tumtum when its blowing snow outside. What I wanted to know was why this was. Well turns out, beet pulp is some pretty cool stuff! A by product of the sugar beet industry(its what is left after the sugar is removed from the beet, to be used in all manner of sweetening in prepared foods) Beet pulp has fiber on par with most types of forage, protein that hovers around 8 percent, low in starch, high in calcium,low in phosphorous(6:1 ratio) and can safely replace 25% of a horses hay ration pound per pound. Neat huh? Now its not with out its detractors, horses prone to bladder stones should avoid the stuff due to the high calcium and balancing the calcium to phosphorous ratio in the ration can be a challenge because of the calcium as well. This dually noted,I increased the beet pulp and fat in equal levels. Cuervo actually drools for his bucket and is putting back the weight he lost in the move. His energy is back up, is coat is glossy, and he is far less dehydrated than he was a month ago. I soak the stuff for half a day before feeding it to optimise the water content, but according to the research I read, soaking is optional. In fact, its been used in sweet feeds for years unsoaked. If your horse bolts his food, the threat of choke is very real with a product as dry as this, but as far as it expanding in your horses stomach and causing colic, this is unsubstantiated. I like to keep my horses diet as natural as possible, forage,vitamins,salt and unprocessed grain (for nummy factor! ;0)) Beet pulp fits right into that philosophy for me, with wonderful results.