How to Feed Whole Sugar Beets


Sugar beets are an ideal supplemental food source for ruminant livestock. They are high in energy and digestible fiber. Processed beet products such as beet pulp and molasses are often fed to livestock or incorporated into manufactured pellets as a binding agent. Ruminants may also be fed whole, unprocessed sugar beets. However, to minimize the choking hazard, whole beets should be cut into smaller pieces before they are fed to livestock.

Things You'll Need

  • Large knife
  • Forage harvester
  • Tub grinder
  • Wood chipper
  • Lidded container
  • Straw
  • Chop whole beets into smaller pieces. Small numbers of beets may be chopped by hand or with a forage harvester, tub grinder or even a wood chipper. Halved sugar beets pose much less of a choking hazard than whole ones.

  • Spread large beet pieces over the ruminant's grazing area as a snack or treat.

  • Add sugar beets to feed as a roughage supplement and nutrition source. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs suggests that whole, unprocessed sugar beets may comprise up to 20 percent by volume of dry feed for cattle and other ruminants and up to 50 percent of the dry feed for beef cows.

  • Store chopped beets in a lidded container with four to five times the amount of straw (or other dry material) by volume. The dry matter helps reduce the high moisture content of the sugar beets and increase their shelf life.

  • Discard fall-harvested sugar beets in spring as temperatures climb. Sugar beets do not last long in warm weather and attract insect infestations.

Tips & Warnings

  • Before using sugar beets as food, make sure that any fungicides or herbicides used on or around the crop does not exclude them for use as feed.
  • Never feed to non-ruminant livestock such as horses.

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  • Photo Credit Richard Drury/Photodisc/Getty Images
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