Hay Alternatives. –
Dr Tom Shurlock
How do beet products fit as hay alternatives? Perfectly.
One of the most important feature of beet fibre is the high structural fibre levels. Speedi-Beet® at 40% NDF and Fibre-Beet® (45% NDF) are comparable with hay (45% NDF) and maintain bulk and gut motility.
Both Speedi-Beet® and Fibre-Beet® have significantly higher levels of soluble fibre (pectin) and so, when it is fermented in the hindgut, the form of the slow release energy (volatile fatty acids) is comparable to that of grass fibre, with the added bonus of producing less lactic acid – which can negatively influence hind gut conditions – but with a higher effective degradability (digestibility).
The third most important feature; the actual profile of the different fibres in beet acts as a prebiotic, stimulating those bacteria that also ferment fibre from any source, including hay. This improves the digestibility of all fibre in the gut.
The fourth feature, when beet is combined with alfalfa in a known proportion, the availability of alfalfa can be increased by 25%, so Fibre-Beet® punches above its weight
The fifth feature – for Speedi-Beet® the physical process of its manufacture has improved the availability of its fibre to provide more energy (University of Glasgow, School of Veterinary Medicine, personal communication, January 2017).
The sixth feature; both Speedi-Beet® and Fibre-Beet® maintain the same level of acidity in the hind gut as hay (University of Glasgow, School of Veterinary Medicine, personal communication, March 2017).
The seventh feature. Soaking permeates the beet products. It not only enables enzyme and microbial access to improve digestibility but also aids hydration. Speedi-Beet® has greater soaking properties than other beet products, absorbing up to 10x its own weight as water. Providing dry feed only may compromise overall water intake, a soaked product can help.
In Speedi-Beet® and Fibre-Beet® we have two excellent products that can outperform grass and hay, whilst still keeping the same hindgut conditions and function you would get from a horse on good quality hay.
This allows us a great amount of flexibility across a wide range of hay quality, availability and substitution, maintaining and even improving condition.
Following the recommended soaking rations of 5 parts of water to 1 part of Speedi-Beet®, and 3 parts of water to 1 part of Fibre-Beet®, the soaked material can be used as follows:
1kg of hay can be replaced by 2kg of soaked Speedi-Beet® or Fibre-Beet®. Up to 50% of the hay can be replaced this way on a long term basis, and up to 100% can be replaced by Fibre-Beet® on a short term basis. The only limiting factor is the presentation.
Ideally both Speedi-Beet® and Fibre-Beet® should be constantly available alongside the hay, but some horses may try and eat all of it at once. Realistically the daily ration should be split into preferably 3 meals and reduced hay available between times.
Alternatively a Mix of Speedi-Beet® & chaff in the ratio of 2 (soaked):1 can be used to replace up to 100% of the hay.
The introduction of “wet” forage may be novel to some horses and they may find it difficult to adapt. In these cases just give them small amounts of damp (1:1) product and build up the water as acceptance increases.
Finally, which one to use? Fibre-Beet® was designed to improve condition on a high forage diet, whilst Speedi-Beet® is for partial replacement of hard feed and forage. However either can be used to replace hay depending what’s in your feed store.
Mitavite® are proud to supply both Speedi-Beet® and Fibre-Beet® in Australia and New Zealand. You can find more information about both of these products on their website www.mitavite.com or contact your local retailer.