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Discuss Beet Pulp vs. Chaff/Alfalfa Pellets at the Horse Health forum - Horse Forums.

The ultimate battle. So anyway, We used to feed my Jake soaked chaff everynight to ...
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    Senior Member JumpinIsFreedom's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Beet Pulp vs. Chaff/Alfalfa Pellets

    The ultimate battle.

    So anyway,

    We used to feed my Jake soaked chaff everynight to build up his weight after we rescued him. It worked really well, but we also had to add corn oil and a weight builder from Dumor before it actually started showing results. Now, Chaff is REALLY exspensive where we are so we gradually switched to alfalfa pellets. Now, they work alot better and his weight is finally up and staying there. We were at the feed store the other day and the lady at the checkout counter asked us why we bought the alfalfa pellets. We told her it was to build/keep one of our rescued horses weight up. She said that beet pulp worked way better, but you should only use it in the winter. Is this true? And what are the benefits of beet pulp? Which one's better for weight/coat shine?

    Thank you all
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    Senior Member ValleyEquine's Avatar
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    I am involved with a horse rescue where many of the horses arrive in emaciated condition. The rescue owner is a nutrition guru who LOVES beet pulp, so I'll share some of the information I've learned from her.

    Alfalfa hay can, in many cases, cause founder/colic/behavior issues. Starting alfalfa gradually, as you are doing, helps reduce these problems. However, if the horse is not able to absorb ALL of the calories and nutrients in the alfalfa, it just isn't a good situation, especially since there are alternatives out there.

    Beet Pulp can be good for gaining weight or loosing weight. Plain beet pulp that has the beet juice removed is high in fiber and low in sugar, so not that great for putting on weight. However, you can also get beet pulp sweetened with the natural beet sugar or molasses, and that is a very good option for adding weight. Also, I would add flax seed oil to beet pulp (or any feed) instead of corn oil. Corn oil provides calories, but, not necessarily healthy, beneficial calories. Flax seed is AMAZING...one of nature's wonder foods. High in HEALTHY fats that will help heart/brain/joint function as well as improve skin and coat condition. Flax seed itself (which you can even buy and mix in with beet pulp) is also fairly high in protein (although I don't believe the oil contains protein).

    As far as beet pulp only in the winter, I have never heard of that. One horse at the farm just turned 31 and only has a single pair of meeting molars on each side of his mouth, so he can't chew hay, grass, or crunchy food. When he came to the farm about 1 year ago, he was nearly starved. (Although uncommon, in this particular situation, the owner was not to blame.)


    Since he came, he has been on a diet of "melt in your mouth" senior feed, and a mash of mainly soaked beet pulp with rolled oats, whole oats, a "flavor of the day" (apple juice, steamed carrots or sweet potatoes, bananas, etc). as well as various supplements. He is on this diet all year long. You can see him now.



    One down side to beet pulp, which normally isn't a problem, is that horses prone to choke can be triggered by beet pulp, because beet pulp swells when it gets wet. As I said, this normally isn't a problem, and almost all feeds have a risk of swelling. However, if your horse has had choke episodes before, or if you want to be 100% sure it won't happen, soak the beet pulp, or put a large rock or salt/mineral block in his feeder to slow his eating and encourage smaller bites.

    Three other very important things to remember when trying to increase weight in a horse, just in case you didn't know or didn't recall...

    -Teeth need to be floated so horse can chew food to properly absorb nutrients.
    -Horse needs to be wormed so that the creepy crawlers don't eat all the food instead!
    -Horse needs access to salt and minerals, so body has everything it needs to process, absorb, and rebuild correctly

    .

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    For me it is often more a case of the feeding regime. If you feed a scoop of chaff, as many do, or a scoop of pellets the pellets weigh more.

    So it isn't a case of one being better it is a case of you are feeding more with pellets. A good reason for weighing feed.
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    Senior Member BroncEars's Avatar
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    you have to soak beet pulp in hot water. worked wonders for an older horse i shareboarded on!

    id talk to the vet about how much, but just really make sure you soak it untill its FULLY absorbed with water. i think it can cause collic if not soaked(:
    "Just because your horse knows XYZ doesn't mean you can't go back to ABC"


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    Beet pulp does not have to be soaked in hot water. It just soaks faster than in cold water. I use water trough water in the Summer, and in literally just a couple of minutes, it's soaked well enough. In the Winter I bring hot water from the house, simply because I don't feel like standing around waiting the extra 5-10 minutes it would take in cold cold water.

    The risk of unsoaked bp is not colic - it's choke.
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    The BP I feed is just over 1k calories a pound (it is molasses free)- so Alfalfa is definitely more bang for your buck, I'm not sure how many calories per pound pellets are, but I'm assuming it's more since both shredded, cubes and hay form are more. What else does your horse eat atm? Just the pellets?

    ValleyEquine- what makes you say Alfalfa causes colic or founder? I recently made the switch to Alfalfa hay only, after one of my horses had surgery for enteritis. I was told by the vets that Alfalfa is easier to digest and less likely to cause irritation.

    From what I have found through research, the only reason for Alfalfa to cause founder is it if is fed incorrectly or offered free choice- as it is very rich and can cause a horse to get overweight quickly- especially a very easy keeper. The behavior problems, IMO, is the same situation as behavior problems arising from any other feed- the horses diet is too high in energy.

    If you have information that contradicts this I would be interested in seeing it!

    -Piaffepony0412


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    Alf is roughly 1100 cal/lb, regardless of the form. Beet pulp can vary too - the stuff I get is listed at 1100 cal/lb, but I've seen it listed at 1000, and I've heard it listed as low as 800.

    Alfalfa in and of itself does not cause colic or founder. It CAN in certain horses. It is generally considered off limits for IR horses as for some of them, the type of sugar in it can set off a laminitis attack.

    Alfalfa is THE choice of hay for re-feeding starved horses because of its easy digestibility and high nutrition.
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    Senior Member BroncEars's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PiaffePony0412 View Post
    The BP I feed is just over 1k calories a pound (it is molasses free)- so Alfalfa is definitely more bang for your buck, I'm not sure how many calories per pound pellets are, but I'm assuming it's more since both shredded, cubes and hay form are more. What else does your horse eat atm? Just the pellets?

    ValleyEquine- what makes you say Alfalfa causes colic or founder? I recently made the switch to Alfalfa hay only, after one of my horses had surgery for enteritis. I was told by the vets that Alfalfa is easier to digest and less likely to cause irritation.

    From what I have found through research, the only reason for Alfalfa to cause founder is it if is fed incorrectly or offered free choice- as it is very rich and can cause a horse to get overweight quickly- especially a very easy keeper. The behavior problems, IMO, is the same situation as behavior problems arising from any other feed- the horses diet is too high in energy.

    If you have information that contradicts this I would be interested in seeing it!

    -Piaffepony0412
    well, i
    founder is caused by high sugar intake,and when digested makes this one acid, which makes this other acid, and too much of that acid makes the lamini weak. very scientific explanation, right?
    well, thats what this poser said at a vet college.
    im very reliable guys. ive read a poster!

    so its probably only cause founder if it was a lot of it.
    "Just because your horse knows XYZ doesn't mean you can't go back to ABC"


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    Beet pulp is typically a bit lower in calories per pound than alfalfa is. But it's more easily digestible. This means that the body burns fewer calories digesting it than it does with many other feedstuffs. This is one reason that it has a great use as a weight builder.

    Alfalfa isn't really a cause for concern as far as colic or laminitis goes. In general, alfalfa is lower NSC than grasses are (though crop to crop this can vary widely of course). It's also an ideal choice for starved horses because of the protein level. (Though I'm assuming that you're no longer dealing with a starvation case.)

    All that's not to say that alfalfa doesn't have its place as a calorie source. It contains nutrients that are lacking in the average grass (pasture and/or hay) diet. It's a safe feed source (unless the horse is allergic or sensitive to it).

    As far as beet pulp being with or without molasses. It doesn't affect the calorie content much at all. The only time this is a concern is when you're dealing with a horse that is in danger of laminitis. At a time like that you obviously want to reduce all sugars as much as possible so getting it without (or soaking and rinsing it) is a must.

    For coat shine, neither are going to be of all that much benefit. Unless there's something lacking in the overall diet that one or the other might happen to provide. If the overall diet is deficient in for example protein, then alfalfa will potentially provide enough extra protein to cause an overall boost in health. But neither have any very coat specific qualities.

    So what is his overall diet? It might be that one or the other is an obvious compliment to his existing diet.

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    Senior Member+ Long Leaf's Avatar
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    Beet pulp can go sour very quickly in the heat of summer, that's probably why you were told only to feed it in the winter. During the summer, if the horse consumes it within a couple of soaking there's no problem. If it sits for longer than 3 or so hours, it just starts to go rancid and attracts a boatload of flies! I have fed it year round, and it gets HOT here in the summer, and have not had a problem.

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