Beet Pulp Supplements for Equine Gut Health

Researchers evaluated the microbiome composition of horses fed sugar beet pulp (SBP) compared to those that did not receive the supplement. 
Beet pulp in a bucket
Beet pulp is not only a high-fiber dietary component but also an effective prebiotic to promote equine gut health. | Courtesy The Horse Staff

It is common to supplement a horse with beet pulp as a substitute for other dietary fiber, especially for horses needing more calories and/or fiber in their diet. Researchers at the University of Missouri evaluated the microbiome composition of horses fed sugar beet pulp (SBP) compared to those that did not receive the supplement. 

Study on Beet Pulp for Horses

Six healthy, adult horses received 2.5 pounds of soaked SBP without molasses along with Timothy grass hay twice daily. The SBP replaced 2.5 pounds of hay. Six control horses were fed only Timothy grass hay twice daily during the seven-day study period. All horses had been removed from pasture for a five-day acclimation period. Fecal samples were collected daily in the morning and evaluated for microbial constituents.

The SBP resulted in an increase in relative abundance of specific Bacillota, which are producers of short-chain fatty acids, particularly butyrate. This has the potential to promote overall gut wellness by reducing the incidence of large intestinal dysbiosis.

Beet Pulp as a Prebiotic

Not just a high-fiber dietary component, beet pulp also acts as an effective prebiotic to promote equine gut health by producing short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate. Butyrate, produced by Gram-positive anaerobic gut species through fermentation of dietary fiber, is known for its positive intestinal effects to provide energy for colonocytes and optimize tight junctions within the gut, along with other anti-inflammatory properties. With this in mind, it might have a strategic role as a preventive feeding strategy against colic and colitis. The authors also suggest SBP supplementation prior to and during diet changes or other stressors, such as travel, might serve a preventive function.

Reference

Ford T, McAdams ZL, Townsend KS, et al. Effect of Sugar Beet Pulp on the Composition and Predicted Function of Equine Fecal Microbiota. Biology 2023, 12, 1254. doi.org/10.3390/biology12091254

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