Molassed sugar beet shreds have been quite popular as, not only are they fast soaking compared to molassed sugar beet nuts, but the extra molasses gives additional energy – as long as your horse does not have issues with dietary sugar.
However, there are good reasons to think about switching to Speedi-Beet. These include nutritional and soaking properties.
Speedi-Beet is unmolassed beet pulp that has undergone a unique, patented process that improves the overall nutrient availability. In terms of fibre, cell walls are disrupted allowing greater access to the gut microbiotica. Work conducted at Glasgow University shows, using hindgut bacteria, that fermentation of Speedi-Beet is 10% greater than standard beet pulp, giving an energy lift that could equate to the extra sugar in shreds. When incorporated into a fibre-based diet, the difference is further extended, due to opening up of the reported prebiotic effect (Figure 1).
Speedi-Beet has a guaranteed limit of sugar of 5%, whereas shreds can contain up to 18% sugar. This does mean there is more flexibility with the use of Speedi-Beet as it has one of the lowest sugar contents of any feedstuff and so can be fed to dilute any ration to improve its glycaemic index.
Cell wall disruption also allows greater access to the horse’s small intestine enzymes. Coupled with the effect of the manufacture process to improve the potential availability of protein, Speedi-Beet has a greater protein digestibility than molassed sugar beet shreds. Similarly, improved enzyme access will improve oil digestibility, whilst general fluid access to cell contents increases the availability of inherent minerals and trace elements.
When it comes to soaking properties, British Horse Feeds (BHF) ran a series of experiments. Whilst shreds are known to be fairly rapid-soaking, Speedi-Beet has several significant advantages.
Speedi-Beet claims to absorb five times its own weight of water in 10 minutes. The trial data actually shows this is achieved after five minutes, with cold water, with over six times absorbed within 10 minutes. Over the same period, shreds only absorb three times. Even over 24 hours this ratio does not improve, whilst Speedi-Beet continues to soak up to nine times. This is important, as hydration is an important factor in equine nutrition, but also as a 5:1 ratio of water to feed is close to that naturally occurring in, for example, grass.
However, it is important that the water stays within the matrix of the beet, and this can be measured by both the water holding capacity (WHC), and the water binding capacity (WBC). BHF trials show that the WHC of Speedi-Beet was twice that of shreds, whilst WBC was similar (Table 1). This means that although Speedi-Beet can hold twice as much water, it can release it just as easily as shreds, an important characteristic in the hydration of the horse.
In summary, Speedi-Beet will supply more digestible nutrients and comparable, or even higher, energy content than shreds. This means comparatively less can be used, making it more economical. But, as the sugar content is far lower than shreds, higher levels can be fed without compromising the diet’s insulinemic response.
Similarly, the better moisture characteristics of Speedi-Beet can also improve the efficiency of feeding. Greater bulking can help gut motility issues, which has benefits for the microbiome, whilst the low WBC facilitates hindgut water resorption, and overall hydration.
Switching from shreds to Speedi-Beet couldn’t be simpler; the only difference in nutrients is the lower sugar content of Speedi-Beet, so a rapid changeover would not cause any disruption to gut integrity.
If you want to switch, simply replace 2 units of soaked shreds, with 1 ½ units of soaked Speedi-Beet and, going forward, adjust for condition.
By Dr Tom Shurlock, Consultant Nutritionist.