Can horses eat turnips?
We know that they’re one of the healthiest veggies for people.
Does the same hold true for your equine friend, though?
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about turnips & horses!
Related: Can Horses Eat Cauliflower?
Table of Contents
Can Horses Eat Turnips?
Turnips are one of the healthiest root vegetables that you could ever add to your diet.
If you’re curious, other root vegetables include ginger, onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, radishes, fennel, celeriac, garlic, and beetroots.
Just how friendly or healthy are some of these root vegetables to your horse, though? Let’s start with the main question: can horses eat turnips?
According to the Rutgers University, no, the root vegetable is not poisonous, so yes, horses can eat turnips.
Of course, as with everything, there are some basic guidelines and safety considerations.
1. Don’t go overboard on them
Experts at Washington State University are a bit more liberal with their turnip recommendations, though. They suggest limiting it to 5-8 pounds to avoid constipation and colic.
Yes, that’s a huge difference- ounces vs. pounds- so I’d suggest starting with just a few a day, then going from there.
The University of Nebraska released a report that though turnips are high in protein, they could cause bloat if consumed in large quantities. So it’s just better to err on the side of caution.
2. Make sure to include roughage with turnips
Experts add that you need to give your animal a lot of dry roughage before giving them turnips.
Failure to do so could cause lots of horse diarrhea since the horse’s digestive system will not be prepared to handle the turnips.
3. Watch for signs of botulism
Turnips contain a lot of moisture content found to favor the development of bacteria Clostridium botulinum that has been found to cause botulism.
Symptoms of botulism include tremors, muscle weakness, drooping eyelids, and difficulty swallowing.
4. Cut it into pieces to prevent choking
If the turnip is too enormous, you need to cut it into small pieces to prevent choking.
But even with this measure, you might still have a greedy equine that gets choked.
If choking does happen, follow the advice in the video below:
5. Do not feed your horse “wild turnips”
While actual turnips- as in the root veggie- are safe for horses, so-called “wild turnips” are not.
These are actually a plant called Jack-in the-Pulpit, and they are toxic to horses according to the ASPCA.
Other names for the plant include: Three-leaved indian turnip, Starch wort, Dragon root, Bog onion, and Pepper turnip.
The video below shows you how to recognize the plant in the wild:
The Nutritional Benefits of Turnips to Your Animal
Turnips are low-calorie and relatively low-sugar foods, so you can feel good about feeding them to your horse.
According to WebMD, a medium turnip contains the following: 0.1 gram of fat, 7 grams carbs, 4 grams sugars.
They are also rich in the following minerals: vitamins, calcium, magnesium, folate, phosphorus, and potassium.
Of course, that’s based on one serving for a human, which is a lot different than a horse-sized serving!
Potential Risks of Turnips and Their Effects on Horses
While turnips themselves are not toxic, the leaves are a different matter.
According to the University of Nebraska, turnip leaves can cause a brain disorder characterized by twitching and body incoordination in animals.
They also cause hemolytic anemia and breathing disorders. You are therefore advised not to feed your animal with turnip greens.
One equine nutritionist after the other has warned on the potential risks of feeding too many turnips treats to your pony.
It could potentially cause bloat and indigestion.
What if My Animal Does Not Want the Turnips?
Although horse owners have recorded no allergies to turnips, some animals might refuse to partake of the root vegetable.
Since turnips aren’t essential, there’s really no reason to force the issue. Just omit it from your horse’s diet.
However, if you already bought a ton of the root veggies thinking your horse would love them, you don’t have to waste them.
Just cut it up into tiny chunks and mix it in with your horses other treats. You can also try combing it with sugar cubes.
Now that we’ve covered all that, there’s one last thing to discuss: growing your own turnips.
If you’re not planning to do this, you can skip ahead to the end now and not miss anything important.
How to Grow Your Turnips Organically
If you plan to grow the crop to feed your animal, I advise that you do it entirely organically; no fertilizers or pesticides should be used.
Seeds are planted directly into the ground since transplanting does not go so well.
Before planting, I would advise you to mix the soil with well-decomposed manure so that the plant can get all the nutrients that it requires.
These crops are cool-season plants, just like cabbages. It would help if you, however, planted it 8 to 10 weeks before the frost.
If the weather is too hot, you will produce woody turnips that are hard to eat and lack flavor.
Like other vegetables, they do well with 8 hours of sunlight per day. They want well-drained soils.
As you plant, space each seed from the other by 2 to 3 inches and 18 inches from one row to another.
Once they germinate, separate the sprouts from each other by 3 inches per row.
Please do not throw away the thinned-out plants since you can use them to make some good salads according to turnip recipes from renowned chefs.
Maintaining the Crop
Farmers should not use pesticides since such chemicals are going to be consumed by your equine.
You do not want this, do you? We advise horse owners to grow their plants organically.
This way, you are assured that your animal is not ingesting toxins that could lead to diseases or potential death.
If there is an infestation of insects on the crop, you can use sulfur, neem oil, or Bt-based insecticides, which are all organic.
You can manage the weeds organically by flame weeding just before the seeds germinate.
And hand weeding once they have sprouted and compete with the weeds for water and nutrients.
We advise you to avoid weeding with a hoe since it might cut and injure the plant’s root.
According to the University of California, harvesting of your crops should be done when the roots are 2-3 inches wide and about ten weeks after sowing the turnip seeds.
Harvest your plants promptly lest the roots become hard and unpalatable.
Once harvested, the unwashed turnip can be stored in a cool dark place for up to 3 months, but when washed, it will only last for a short while unless it is refrigerated.
FAQ About Horses Eating Turnips
What vegetables are Bad for Horses?
Unsafe vegetables (and veggie-like fruits) for horses include avocados, onions, cabbage, tomatoes, and peppers.
Can horses eat turnip tops?
Yes, like carrot tops, horses can eat turnip tops. Again, though, moderation is key.
How many turnips should I feed my Horse?
While expert vary on how much is too much, err on the side of caution. Stick with one or two pieces a day. Use them as a treat rather than part of your horse’s overall diet.
We have seen that while it is okay to feed root turnips to your horse, it should be done in small quantities, or otherwise, your pony could develop bloat or colic.
At the same time, avoid feeding your horse turnip greens. They could cause anemia, body incoordination, and breathing problems.
We have looked at the health benefits of turnips to your animal and seen that it is a source of vitamins, proteins, and potassium.
The best turnip roots to feed your animal are those you have grown yourself since with this, you are assured of how you produced them.
Spraying pesticides or applying chemical fertilizers to your plant would translate to your horse feeding on those same chemicals, leading to diseases.
You should only spray organic insecticides and hand-weed your crops.
Last, but far from least- remember that all of this applies to actual turnips, and not “wild turnips.”
Can horses eat turnips? what do you think? share below!
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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