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Beet molasses


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Beet molasses, sugar beet molasses, sugarbeet molasses [English]; mélasse de betterave [French]; melasse van zuikerbieten [Dutch]; Rübenmelasse [German]; melassa di barbabietola [Italian]; melaza de remolacha [Spanish]; melasy buraczane [Polish]; melaço de beterraba [Portuguese]; свекловичная патока [Russian]; دبس البنجر [Arabic]; biet melasse [Afrikaans]; סלק מולסה [Hebrew]; 甜菜糖蜜 [Chinese]

Related feed(s) 

Beet molasses is the syrupy by-product yielded after the crystallisation of sugar from concentrated sugar juice extracted from the roots of sugar beets (Beta vulgaris L.) (SNFS, 2015; Crawshaw, 2004). It is viscous, dark, sweet, sugar-rich, with a caramel flavour. Like sugarcane molasses, it is very palatable to livestock. It is a major feed ingredient for all types of livestock including poultry. It is used as an energy source, as an appetizer, as a binder in compound feeds, and as a carrier for other ingredients such as sources of non-protein nitrogen (urea) (CNC, 2002).


Beet molasses is an energy feed due to its high sugar content, and thus a valuable feed ingredient for all livestock species. The stickiness of beet molasses makes it useful as a binder for making pellets, as it allows the feed granules to stick together during pelletization, resulting in pellets that are less likely to break down during transportation and passage through feeding equipment. The addition of molasses also reduces dustiness in the dietary mixture (Blair, 2008). Beet molasses is used as an additive for ensiling as it provides quickly fermentable sugar (Crawshaw, 2004). Beet molasses is used to make molasses-urea blocks (FAO, 2011; Beames, 1963).

Molasses is used for ethanol production and for yeast and fermentation industry (EBSSP, 2019). In the EU, 70% of beet molasses is used in ethanol production (EBSSP, 2019). In the USA, it is added to chloride salt used for de-icing roads to make the process more environmentally friendly (MidWest Agri, 2019).


Beet molasses is produced worlwide and available wherever beet roots are extracted for sugar production. The yield of beet molasses is about 36-40 kg per t of sugar beet root processed, which represents about 285 g of molasses per kg of sugar produced (CNC, 2002). In 2013, 231 million t of sugar beet were processed worldwide (out of a total of 247 million t) (FAO, 2019), resulting approximately in 9 million t of beet molasses. In EU, more than 70% beet molasses go to alcohol and yeast production (EBSSP, 2019). In 2004, its was estimated that 13% of the molasses (sugarcane and beet) produced worldwide were used as feed (Rolet, 2005). Assuming the same ratio, the amount of beet molasses used for feed should be about 1 million t.


The conventional process is described in the figure above. Another process called the Quentin process substitutes the K+ and Na+ ions with Mg2+ ions, allowing to crystallize more sugar. The Quentin process yields beet molasses that are poorer in sugar but richer in Mg (CNC, 2002).

Handling and preservation

Molasses are a relatively stable product because its sugar concentration results in a high osmotic pressure that does not allow bacteria and other microorganisms to develop. The viscosity of beet molasses, particularly at low temperatures, tend to hinder its transfer from the storage tanks to feed mixers (Mavromichalis, 2013). In France, it is recommended to store it in a heated tank when temperature goes below 10°C and to heat molasses when it will be used quickly, as temperature over 50°C can alter the quality of the product (CNC, 2002). In the US, heated tanks are recommended in all circumstances (MidWest Agri, 2019). Tubing should be wide enough (7- 8 cm in diameter) to prevent clogging (CNC, 2002; MidWest Agri, 2019).

A common way to mitigate viscosity problems is to dilute beet molasses to 72–75% DM (Harland et al., 2006). Dilution should be done by putting water first to facilitate the mixing since molasses is heavier than water (Bernard et al., 1991). However, diluted molasses has a lower osmotic pressure, and may become a fermentation medium. Fermented molasses has a strong alcoholic smell and its surface is liquefied. Molasses containing more than 5% added water should be consumed quickly, within 8 days if the temperature is high (MidWest Agri, 2019; Harland et al., 2006; CNC, 2002).

Distribution to livestock

There are many ways to distribute beet molasses to livestock. It can be given directly to the animals, in troughs or sprayed on the roughage, in dry blocks (with urea for instance) or mixed with feed ingredients (CNC, 2002; Bernard et al., 1991). The amount of molasses that can be absorbed depend on the substrate, on its particle size (finely ground materials absorb molasses better than coarsely ground ones), on its humidity (dry materials absorb molasses better than humid ones), and on the temperature of the molasses (heated molasses is less viscous and better absorbed) (Bernard et al., 1991). 

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Beet molasses, like sugarcane molasses, is primarily an energy source with a very high sugar content (60-65% DM), most of this sugar being saccharose (CNC, 2002). Its protein content of 12-16% DM is between 2 and 3 times higher than that of sugarcane molasses. The protein fraction of beet molasses is completely soluble: it contains 50% amino acids with a low amount of essential amino acid and 50% NPN. Beet molasses is rich in betain, a N compound that provides methyl groups in metabolic reactions and can reduce animal requirement for choline (FEDNA, 2012). Beet molasses has the same feed value as sugarcane molasses but tends to be more laxative: the amount of beet molasses fed should be less than those recommended for sugarcane molasses (CNC, 2002).

Potential constraints 

Parakeratosis-like lesions

The high sugar content of molasses may have deleterious effects on rumen where it causes lesions similar to parakeratosis: molasses must then be fed as a concentrate and used in combination with high fibre roughage. The excess of potassium may  have depressive effect on appetite by filling rumen with water (Bernard et al., 1991).

Soft faeces

Beet molasses may result in soft faeces and diarrhoea in pigs and should thus be included at limited level only (Harland et al., 2006; Edwards, 2002).


Soft faeces, molasses stickiness and handling difficulties can reduce the cleanliness of animals, making them less acceptable for abattoirs (Harland et al., 2006; Boland et al., 2004; CNC, 2002).


Beet molasses is a highly palatable source of energy for ruminants. It is commonly used in mixture with straw or other fibrous feeds, as a binder, and to promote the ingestion of unpalatable feeds. The flavour and odour of beet molasses stimulate the appetite and promote digestion. Diets containing beet molasses have higher DM digestibility, increased levels of microbial nitrogen in the small intestine and high efficiency of microbial nitrogen synthesis Nitrogen supply by molasses may play an important role in increasing the ingested quantities of the medium-quality diets into which they are generally integrated (CNC, 2002Harland et al., 2006).

Due to the high sugar and potassium content of beet molasses, there should be a 8-10 days transition period before feeding significant amounts of molasses to ruminants. Livestock should be provided with mineral licks, and with additional bedding material due to the laxative effects of molasses (CNC, 2002). When a significant level of beet molasses is fed to cattle, a proportion of the diet needs to be in the form of roughage to facilitate rumen outflow and limit digestive disorders (CNC, 2002Harland et al., 2006). When given with energy-rich diets, beet molasses should not exceed to 10% of the DM intake.With diets based on coarse fodder, molasses can be included at up to 15-20% of DM intake (CNC, 2002). Feeds rich in potassium (beet leaves and collars, chicory roots, whey, potatoes...) should be avoided (CNC, 2002).

Dairy cows

In dairy cows, beet molasses can be included without adverse effect at levels of 10-15% diet DM (Harland et al., 2006). In France, recommendation for dairy cows is 2-3 kg/d (CNC, 2002). Higher levels are possible if long forage is provided but such levels may give a fishy taste to the milk, due to the breakdown of betaine to triethylamine (Harland et al., 2006). Very high inclusion levels of beet molasses (50% diet DM, about 6 kg of molasses) are not recommended because they induce butyrate production in the rumen, causing ketosis and resulting in a 20-45% decrease in milk production (Bernard et al., 1991).

Beef cattle

Up to 20% beet molasses can be included in both forage and mixed diets of beef cattle with no adverse effect on growth and performance (Harland et al., 2006). In France, it has been recommended to give beef cattle 0.25 to 0.5 kg/d of molasses for animals of 200 kg liveweight, and 1-2 kg/d for heavier livestock (CNC, 2002). In Chile, with 400 kg steers fed from 0.6 to 2.4 kg beet molasses per 100 kg of liveweight daily, there were no adverse effects on health even at the highest levels of inclusion. Performance in terms of liveweight gain improved as the proportion of molasses in the diet increased (Ruiz et al., 1980). However, higher butyrate concentration may lead to the production of ketone bodies and decrease the efficiency of energy utilization for growth and fattening. The inclusion of urea in the diet may enhance propionate production and decrease the levels of ketogenic and higher volatile fatty acids, leading to a more efficient utilization of beet molasses for fattening (Harland et al., 2006).


Molasses can replace some of the cereals in sheep diets. Molasses intake should be limited to 0.6 kg/d for ewes and to about 0.2 kg/d for 30 kg lambs. Mineral licks should be provided. Spraying molasses on poor quality fodder increases the quantities ingested because of its palatability. However, sheep may search through the fodder to reach the molasses, which sticks around the eyes, collecting dust and causing eye problems (CNC, 2002). In a trial in Ireland, feeding up to 9% molasses to early-weaned lambs did not affect growth rate but reduced feed intake at the higher level of molasses inclusion. The main issue was that the inclusion of molasses at 6–9% decreased the cleanliness of fleeces below levels acceptable by abattoirs (Boland et al., 2004).


Molasses can be sprayed on roughage-based goat diets to make them more palatable (CNC, 2002).



Beet molasses can be used as an energy source of pigs, but its inclusion in pig diets must be limited due to the high levels of K and Na that may cause soft faeces or diarrhoea (Harland et al., 2006). Safe inclusion levels range from 5% for growing pigs to 10% for finishing pigs. Higher levels may be used, but they can cause soft, dark-coloured faeces in intensive systems (Harland et al., 2006).

In Greece, pigs could be fed on beet molasses at up to 30% dietary level (growing pigs) and up to 40% (fattening pigs). In growing pigs, increasing beet molasses levels had no effect on weight gain but increased feed/gain ratio. In fattening pigs, increasing beet molasses dietary level reduced weight gain and increased feed/gain ratio. No diarrhoea occured, even at 40% dietary inclusion (Karamitros, 1987). In Poland, pigs receiving a sweet drink made of water and beet molasses (16% in volume) on the day before slaughter had higher slaughtering yield and higher protein content than pigs receiving pure water (Wajda, 1997). In organic sows, it was recommended to allow 20% beet molasses in the diet at farrowing time in order to prevent constipation issues (Blair, 2007).


Beet molasses can be part of poultry diets. It can be used to increase pellet hardness, an important trait in poultry feeding (Mavromichalis, 2013). However, high levels of beet molasses can cause soft faeces or diarrhoea, due to alkaline salts or to non mineral substances like oligosaccharides, raffinose or nitrogenous compounds (Harland et al., 2006). Its high level of K may also increase water consumption and have deleterious effects on litter (wet litter) (Mavromichalis, 2013). Beet molasses fed to growing chicks and laying hens at 10% and 20% dietary inclusion respectively had no adverse effect on animal performance (Keshavarz et al., 1980).

The level of inclusion of beet molasses in poultry diets should be in the 2-6% range and no higher than 10% (Mavromichalis, 2013; Harland et al., 2006).


Beet molasses are used in rabbit feeding in the same manner as sugarcane molasses. Using one or the other type of molasses depends on price and availability, and on choosing the product with the lowest potassium content (<1.8% K in the final balanced rabbit diet) (Lebas, 2004). For all technical constraints for uses of sugar beet molasses in rabbit feeding, see the sugarcane molasses datasheet.

Horses and donkeys 

In horses, beet molasses is considered a good appetizer and an improver of pellets quality. In the past, beet molasses were included at high levels in horse diets, resulting in health issues such as kidney stones. In the early 20th century, safer and lower levels (10.0–16.5%) were recommended (Morrison, 1936). Modern recommendations tend to be much lower, due to the laxative effect of beet molasses (Harland et al., 2006; Trillaud-Geyl et al., 2015). For instance, when horses and ponies could be fed with more than 1 kg/d of beet molasses (10% of intake on average), water intake increased and faeces sometimes became soft, although this was not severe enough to cause distress to the horses (Pillner et al., 1986, unpublished observations cited by Harland et al., 2006).

Generally, levels of up to 10% are considered quite acceptable (Harland et al., 2006). In Switzerland, 6% inclusion is recommended in horse diets (Agroscope, 2016). In France, 3-5% inclusion is recommended (Trillaud-Geyl et al., 2015).

K and Na provision by beet molasses may be valuable for horses as they counteract the loss of eletrolytes and thus maintain osmotic pressure in tissues when the horse is sweating. Beet molasses have also been reported to have high Cr content, a trace element that could prevent insuline resistance (Aellig, 2018).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 75.4 2.7 56.6 82.8 599  
Crude protein % DM 14.2 2 8.9 19.3 529  
Crude fibre % DM 0 0.09 0 0.3 9  
Ether extract % DM 0.2   0.1 0.3 4  
Ash % DM 12.7 2 8 21.1 527  
Insoluble ash % DM 0.01   0.01 0.01 2  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 0          
Acid detergent fibre % DM 0          
Lignin % DM 0          
Starch (polarimetry) % DM 0          
Total sugars % DM 63.4 4.7 49.1 76.8 464  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 15.5 0.5 14.7 16.6 10 *
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Lysine g/16g N 1.5       1 *
Threonine g/16g N 0.7       1 *
Methionine g/16g N 0.2       1 *
Cystine g/16g N 0.7       1 *
Methionine+cystine g/16g N 0.9       1 *
Tryptophan g/16g N 0.8         *
Isoleucine g/16g N 2.6       1 *
Valine g/16g N 1.8       1 *
Leucine g/16g N 2.6       1 *
Phenylalanine g/16g N 0.5       1 *
Tyrosine g/16g N 2.7       1 *
Phenylalanine+tyrosine g/16g N 3.1       1 *
Histidine g/16g N 0.5       1 *
Arginine g/16g N 0.8       1 *
Alanine g/16g N 1.8       1 *
Aspartic acid g/16g N 5.4       1 *
Glutamic acid g/16g N 47.8       1 *
Glycine g/16g N 1.7       1 *
Serine g/16g N 2.1       1 *
Proline g/16g N 0.9       1 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 1.2 0.8 0 4.2 119 *
Phosphorus g/kg DM 0.3 0.2 0.04 1.1 120 *
Magnesium g/kg DM 0.3 0.2 0.06 0.7 8  
Potassium g/kg DM 51.2 12 13.2 81.6 70 *
Sodium g/kg DM 6.91 2.02 3.24 11.56 134  
Sulfur g/kg DM 5.6          
Manganese mg/kg DM 38          
Zinc mg/kg DM 22          
Copper mg/kg DM 17          
Iron mg/kg DM 154          
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 11 0.7 10.3 12 6 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 85.9 7 79.7 97.5 7 *
OM digestibility, ruminants % 88.7 6.1 80.8 96.3 7  
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 72 16.2 34.3 87.2 8 *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 100          
Dry matter degradability (effective, k=6%) % 95         *
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 13.1         *
MEn growing pig MJ/kg DM 12.8         *
NE growing pig MJ/kg DM 8.8         *
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 85          
Nitrogen digestibility, growing pig % 50          
Poultry nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
AMEn cockerel MJ/kg DM 12.3         *
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 14.3       1 *
MEn rabbit MJ/kg DM 13.7         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 92.3       1  
Nitrogen digestibility, rabbit % 70       1  

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


ADAS, 1986; AFZ, 2017; Hindrichsen et al., 2004; Huhtanen, 1988; Karalazos et al., 1988; Maertens et al., 1985; Murphy et al., 1993; Steg et al., 1985; Vargas et al., 1965; Woodman, 1945

Last updated on 05/03/2019 18:45:30

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Lebas F., 2019. Beet molasses. Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://feedipedia.org/node/711 Last updated on July 9, 2019, 17:38