Can Sugar Beet Be Fed to Horses with 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 unmolassed sugar beet is one way of achieving this especially for horses that are working or struggling to maintain condition as it is a very digestible source of fibre and has a calorie or energy level comparable to oats, but without the starch. Unmolassed sugar beet typically contains 5% sugar as fed which is lower than hay. This is because the sugar has been extracted for use in human nutrition and the material used in 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 act as buffers http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10895901. 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 http://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(87)80161-3/abstract
Dengie Alfa-Beet combines alfalfa and unmolassed sugar beet with a 2 hour cold soak or 15 minute hot soak time. Alfa-Beet is ideal for adding to the ration of working horses or those that need to gain weight and is also useful for tempting fussy feeders.