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Palatability of Safflower Oil as Compared to that of Linseed Oil in Horse Rations

by L.C. Gagnon and David Barbisan Animal & Range Science Department Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717*


Soybean meal and linseed oil are standard sources of supplemental amino acids and essential fatty acids for many types of animal feeds, including rations for horses. These feed ingredients are not produced in Montana and must be acquired from out-of-state feed suppliers. Safflower meal and oil is produced from safflower grown in Northeastern Montana and Northwestern North Dakota. Most of the seed grown in these areas is crushed and the oil extracted at the SVO Specialty Products Plant in Culbertson, Montana. The oil is refined and the principal portion is utilized by the human food industry. However, there is considerable feed grade oil produced that is a by-product.

Both linseed oil and safflower oil are unsaturated fats that contain the essential fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic, as well as an abundance of oleic acid.

At the current market price, soybean oil is higher than the cost of safflower oil ($.48 vs. $.30 per lb). Thus, the use of safflower oil may be a viable alternative to soybean oil for horse rations.

The objective of this study is to evaluate the palatability of safflower oil as compared to that of linseed oil in horse rations.

Materials and Methods:

Ten mixed, mature horses (1, 125# mean body wt), were used in an 11-day feed trial to compare the palatability of linseed oil and safflower oil rations. Two cubed rations were made, one using alfalfa hay and 4% linseed oil, the other using alfalfa hay and 4% safflower oil. A five-day adjustment period in which horses were fed untreated alfalfa cubes preceded the 11-day palatability trial. During the trial, horses were tied throughout feeding periods and offered a full 1/2 ration of each feed. All horses were given 2 hours during each bout to consume a 1/2 daily ration after which refusals of feed were weighed back and recorded. Animals were given access to water after 1 hour throughout each feeding period.

Three weights, days 5, 15 and 21, were recorded for each animal. Fecal samples were collected randomly throughout the trial for fecal dry-matter analysis. Weights were analyzed by the general linear models analysis of variance procedures of SAS. There were 21 feeding periods throughout the trial. Feed refusal data was analyzed using the paired T-test procedure of SAS.


Table 1 is the T-test summary statistics showing the mean difference in lbs. of refusals between linseed treated cubes refused minus safflower treated cubes refused. There was a mean of 2.78 lbs more safflower treated cubes refused than linseed treated cubes for the 21 feedings. Safflower vs linseed refusals were significantly different (P < .05) with a standard error of .29.

Individual horse weights varied throughout the trial but least squares means of group weights for the three weigh periods were not significantly different (P> .05), Table II. Dry matter samples (Table III) were in agreement with those of animals on cubed rations in previous trials conducted at Montana State University, as well as those reported by Pagan & Jackson (1991). No health problems were observed in the animals on this trial.


This study concluded that horses offered a choice between cubed alfalfa treated with 4% linseed oil and cubed alfalfa treated with 4% safflower oil, preferred the linseed oil treated cubes over those treated with safflower oil. Those horses eating mostly safflower oil treated cubes showed no difference in weights or any health problems as was the linseed oil treated cubes. Horses will consume safflower treated cubes and maintain body condition.

All horses exhibited a better hair coat and tended to shed sooner than horses that were not on treatments but were stabled at the same facility.

Overall, both feeds performed well but if horses were given a choice, they preferred the linseed treated cubes over safflower cubes.


Pagan, J. D,, and S. G. Jackson. 1991. Digestibility of long stem alfalfa, pelleted alfalfa or and alfalfa/bermuda straw blend pellet in horses. Proc. 12th Equine Nutrition & Physiology Symposium. University of Calgary.


* SUMMARY REPORT - on April 23, 1993 - to Montana Pride, P.O. Box 509, Dillon, MT 59725 and Rich Equine Nutritional Consulting Ginger Rich, Ph.D., 21 Old Mine Lane Monroe, CT, 06468 .

Overall, both feeds performed well but if horses were given a choice, they preferred the linseed treated cubes over safflower cubes.



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