Specialty oil manufacturer Natures Crops International has entered into an exclusive USA supply deal with Purina Animal Nutrition for Ahiflower oil in equine supplements.
Andrew Hebard, CEO of Natures Crops, said that being able to provide plant-derived ingredients that are supported by science, traceable back to their source farms, and regeneratively grown is not just a trend—It’s rapidly becoming a prerequisite.
Ahiflower oil’s fatty acid composition includes omega-3 SDA and omega-6 GLA levels as well as an 85% total polyunsaturated fatty acid content. Through research led by Dr. Robert Jacobs, Ahiflower oil was found to have high palatability and a capacity to more closely match the omega nutritional effects of pasture grasses in horses. The team's initial findings were recently published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.
Purina's product development team said Ahiflower fills an important gap for horses that don't have regular access to fresh pasture, hence the name "OmegaMatch.”
“Extensive research has now shown that horses are able to take in the specific plant-based omegas in Ahiflower Oil and metabolize them into a long chain, highly unsaturated fatty acid, such as EPA. In the process of metabolizing EPA (as opposed to taking preformed from fish oil) horses gain a comprehensive omega fatty acid supplementation benefit supporting joint, cardiovascular, skin, respiratory and reproductive health, muscles, and immune function,” explained Hebard.
“Like humans, if horses have adequate access to complete and balanced, plant-derived omega sources, their dietary needs can often be met without supplementation. However, where dietary limitations exist, such as inadequate quality or quantity of pasture grazing, or there are specific health targets that horse owners are trying to meet, then balanced omega supplementation can be highly beneficial. In these cases you want to give your horse the best product available, which we feel is Ahiflower. Purina named the line ‘OmegaMatch’ for a reason. Their independent equine science confirms that Ahiflower oil most closely matches certain omega intake levels and ratios obtained from pasture grasses.”
The oil also solves the palatability issue that horses experience with non-plant based protein sources.
“There’s a strong hesitancy to supplement horses with fish oil, and horses really don’t like the palatability of fish oil, so having a plant based, sustainable, traceable and good tasting alternative that shows great results has put sales on a very strong trajectory,” noted Hebard.
Bill Bookout, president and founder of the National Animal Supplement Council, echoed a similar sentiment, explaining that plant-based protein sources are much more common among horses than other animals because horses are vegetarians by nature.
Bookout added that dog and cat products typically follow human trends, however, horses are not as much of a fast follow segment.
“You are talking about a 1,000 pound animal whose consumption is far greater than companion animals or humans and there are some ingredients that just become too expensive to include meaningful quantities in a product for horses. CoQ10 for example is not as popular due to the cost. This is however, not true of other ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, other joint supportive ingredients or something for hooves, like biotin. In some areas, horse owners are willing to pay the price of products that provide meaningful quantities of quality ingredients,” said Bookout.
Launched in April 2021, the OmegaMatch Ahiflower Oil product has exceeded Purina's early sales projections.
“OmegaMatch Ahiflower Oil is available nationwide and is delivering important benefits to horse owners across the full range of equine disciplines from dressage, eventers and jumpers to Western performance, endurance and equitation, and pleasure riding. We believe Ahiflower oil is the most complete and balanced 'multi-omega' from a regeneratively grown plant source. We are extremely pleased with the overwhelmingly positive response from horse owners as Purina helps to expand awareness of the comprehensive benefits of Ahiflower supplementation in equines,” said Hebard.