Beet Pulp Shortage Continues, Could Repeat

Plain shredded beet pulp, a source of digestible fiber for many horses, has been hard to come by this year for a number of East Coast horse owners. Some have wondered when supplies will replenish. While a temporary supply will be available soon, the long-term outlook on beet pulp availability isn't as clear.

Burton Feed & Seed in Beaufort, S.C., received its first shipment of beet pulp in months earlier this week.

"I had a lot of trouble getting it, and I can't say for sure why," said owner Robert Bowles. "And I have three different suppliers I get regular shipments from."

Triple Crown Nutrition General Manager Eric Haydt, RAS, said seasonal and regional shortages are a larger issue endemic to the sugar beet industry.

"Most processed beet pulp is pelleted for livestock feed and exported overseas. Export contracts are filled first, then domestic," said Haydt. "If a distributor or manufacturer underestimates their annual needs, they could run out just prior to the next harvest."

"For the equine industry, demand is starting to exceed supply." --Eric Haydt
Weather is another supply factor. For the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative in Wahpeton, N.D., rain meant a reduction in the members' 2008 harvest.

"We've had to leave 30,000 acres out in the fields," said Minn-Dak agriculturist Mike Metzger. "Beets were coming in covered with mud and we were unable to process them. That's one-third of our crop."

And the long-term supply outlook?

"For the equine industry, demand is starting to exceed supply. Consumption is double what it was five years ago," said Haydt. "On top of that, availability is strictly controlled by the sugar companies, and they haven't necessarily caught up with equine market demand."

Horse owners who rely on beet pulp might want to discuss feed alternatives with their veterinarians. Another option is to purchase a bulk quantity earlier in the year to avoid any future autumn shortages.

Read more about the beet pulp shortage.  

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Lisa Kemp

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