Sugar Beets as a Feed Ingredient
The 2008 Ontario sugar beet crop is an exceptional crop with yields
much better than expected; resulting in more beets than can be reasonably
processed. Sugar beet producers are being encouraged to consider
a Set Aside Program option. A portion of the crop would be left
unharvested or undelivered for processing.
Those who are planning to participate in the Set Aside Program
may be looking for alternatives such as harvesting the whole beets
for use as a livestock feed. Several livestock producers may have
had experience with feeding the by-product of sugar beet processing
- moist beet pulp, but not with feeding whole sugar beets. The whole
beets' sugar content and their digestible fibre make them a good
source of energy and have been successfully used in feeding ruminants,
such as cattle and sheep. The feeding value of sugar beets could
be considered similar to corn and cob meal with equivalent energy
levels but with slightly lower protein than corn and cob meal.
The chart below compares the typical nutritional analysis of whole
sugar beets to beet pulp, corn silage, corn and cob meal and shelled
corn on a dry matter basis.
Whole Sugar Beets
Sugar Beet Pulp (moist)
Corn and Cob Meal
Considerations When Feeding Whole Sugar Beets
- The high moisture levels (approximately 80%) and relatively
high sugar content of whole beets can present storage challenges.
- Industry consultants are suggesting unprocessed sugar beets
may be stored in a pile with minimal spoilage until well into
February. However, piled beets must be used up prior to warm weather
in mid March as warm temperatures will cause rapid decay and significant
nuisance insect problems will develop.
- Ensiling processed sugar beets in combination with a dry ingredient
such as straw, hay or corn stalks to achieve a final moisture
level of 35-40% can be a longer term storage option. The pile
should be packed and covered to exclude oxygen.
- The location of temporary storage piles should be considered
carefully in order to minimize the potential for environmental
contamination and offensive smells. Monitor and prevent any potential
runoff from reaching surface water bodies like streams, ditches
- Mixing processed sugar beets with straw at a ratio of four or
five beets to one of straw has been shown to be an effective ensiling
- The sugar content of beets provides an excellent source of fermentable
carbohydrate needed for successful fermentation.
- Whole beets can be processed by various methods such as feeding
them through a forage harvester; in a tub grinder; extended agitation
in TMR mixer; driving over them or putting them through an industrial
- Cattle and sheep can consume unprocessed whole sugar beets.
To reduce the risk of smaller beets becoming lodged in animal's
throats and to facilitate a more uniform mixing with other ingredients
it is recommended that sugar beets be broken or processed prior
- Suggested ration inclusion rates are up to 20% of the dry matter
intake for backgrounding/growing cattle and up to 50% of a beef
cow's dry matter intake.
- The beet tops can also be fed but because the majority of the
feed value is contained within the beet, it may be better to focus
efforts on preserving and utilizing the beet itself.
- It is important to determine which fungicide and herbicide was
used with the sugar beet crop as there may be label restrictions
regarding the use of sugar beets as a feed ingredient. For example,
the label on Tilt states "Do not graze or feed sugar
beet tops treated with propiconazole to livestock" while
there are no restrictions on feeding the beet itself. The label
on Senator 70W displays the warning -"No sugar beets
or parts of sugar beets are to be used as fodder or feed in Canada."
Headline does not appear to have any feeding restrictions.
The bottomline -check the label!
Livestock producers who decide to take advantage of this opportunity
to feed sugar beets should work with a qualified livestock nutritionist
to ensure the rations are properly balanced for optimal animal health
For more information of feeding sugar beets, contact::
Feed Ingredients and Byproducts Feeding Specialist
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
581 Huron Street,
Stratford,ON N5A 5T8