Using Sugar Beet As Horse Feed: Gastric Ulcers

The main advice for managing horses with gastric ulcers is to reduce the amount of non-structural carbohydrate (starch + sugar) in the ration and feed more fibre. Using sugar beet that is free from molasses as a horse feed is one way of achieving this especially for horses that are working or struggling to maintain condition. This is because sugar beet for horses has a number of positive features, including the following:

  • It is a very digestible source of fibre
  • It has a calorie or energy level comparable to oats, but without the high starch content
  • Sugar beet without molasses typically contains 5% sugar as fed which is lower than hay

The reason for this minimal sugar content is because the sugar has been extracted from the sugar beet for use in human nutrition and the sugar beet pulp that is left for use in horse and animal feed is the fibrous residue which is very low in sugar.

Sugar beet, like alfalfa, contains higher levels of calcium compared to other forages. Studies that have found a reduction in the incidence and severity of ulcers in horses fed a ration that includes alfalfa, have partly attributed this to the high levels of calcium and protein that alfalfa contains. These nutrients can then act as a buffer. 

As sugar beet also contains higher levels of calcium compared to other fibre sources it may also provide some additional buffering benefits. An early study of ruminant feedstuffs in the laboratory found beet pulp had a higher acid-buffering capacity. 

Dengie Alfa-Beet combines alfalfa and unmolassed sugar beet. We recommend a 2 hour cold soak or a 15 minute hot soak time. Alfa-Beet is an ideal sugar beet horse feed and is perfect for adding to the ration of working horses or those that need to gain weight and is also useful for tempting fussy feeders.