The Oxbow Way
Oxbow Animal Health has spent the past four decades making a difference in the lives of pets and their owners by committing to four fundamental principles—quality, innovation, education and appreciation.
When John Miller steered his family farm into the commercial alfalfa business nearly 40 years ago, there is no way he could have known that he was setting the foundation for one of the leading companies dedicated to improving the health of small pets. Yet, thanks to a commitment to the four fundamental principles of quality, innovation, education and appreciation, Oxbow Animal Health has risen from these humble origins to become a major force not only in producing and marketing high-quality products, but also in advancing the science behind small animal care.
“Innovation has always been foundational to Oxbow, and we continue to strive to find new ways to improve the lives of pets and the people who love them,” says Melissa Ross, Oxbow’s vice president of marketing. “This innovation is not just limited to the nutrition and care products we sell; we’re also committed to investing the time and resources required to help advance the understanding of how small animals should be fed and cared for in order to provide the longest, highest quality of life possible, as well finding new ways to use our expertise to help advance the knowledge and education of pet parents across the world.”
While Miller set Oxbow’s path and has guided it into the singularly focused organization it is today, he hasn’t had to do it alone. In fact, the staff that Miller has assembled over the years has been invaluable in building the company’s reputation as one of the foremost innovators in the small pet category.
“At Oxbow, we’re blessed to have a team made up of talented, passionate, hard-working individuals who are united by a common purpose of helping people and pets live happy, healthy lives,” says Ross. “This purpose drives every aspect of our business, whether it’s the work being done in product development, quality assurance, production, customer care or any other facet of our business.”
Oxbow’s commitment to the “purpose” mentioned by Ross has resulted in the development of a wide range of products that are designed to help pet owners provide the highest standard of care to their small animal companions. Among the company’s most popular offerings are its variety of farm fresh hays and species-specific fortified food lines—products that Ross says have earned customer loyalty by providing unsurpassed quality.
“We credit the success and popularity of these lines to our ongoing commitment to premium quality in every aspect of development and production,” she explains. “All Oxbow hays are grown in ideal climates by longtime grower partners who are expertly trained in the production of hay that meets the needs and preferences of small herbivores. All Oxbow hays are hand-selected and hand-sorted by highly-skilled production members who take great pride in providing a product that meets the needs of our customers’ beloved pets.”
When it comes to fortified foods, Oxbow offers multiple lines that provide the unique blends of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients that various species of small pets need to thrive. “From our flagship Essentials line, to our Organic Bounty line of certified organic foods, to our garden-inspired, non-GMO Garden Select line, we proudly offer a food for every pet’s preferences and palate,” says Ross. “All Oxbow foods are formulated with the guidance of leading exotic veterinarians and nutritionists. Our foods are 100 percent uniform without exception; this prevents picky eating and ensures complete nutrition in every bite.”
Advancing Pet Care
Given Oxbow’s dedication to improving pet nutrition, it’s no surprise that the company continues to develop new foods that better meet the needs of small animals and their owners. For example, the company is expanding its popular Garden Select line with larger sizes for households with multiple pets, as well as new products specifically formulated for young animals.
“Offering young formulas is an important step in helping pet parents start their animals off right from the very beginning,” Ross says, noting that the new varieties include young rabbit and guinea pig formulas, as well as a mouse and young rat formula. “We are very excited to add value to a line that has fast become a favorite of pets everywhere.”
While nutrition remains a major focus, Oxbow understands that providing small pets with quality care goes beyond what’s in the food dish or hay rack. With this in mind, the company is diversifying its offerings with the development of its Enriched Life line, which Ross says brings an added level of purpose to the hard goods aisle.
“In addition to basic nutrition needs, small pets require daily opportunities for mental and physical enrichment to be at their happiest and healthiest,” she explains. “To help pet parents address the instinctual behaviors of their pets, we just launched our Enriched Line of enrichment and care products. Enriched Life includes a wide variety of healthy chews, stimulating play centers, innovative, behavior-inspired habitats and essential care items to meet key instinctual behaviors that include exploring, chewing, playing and hiding.”
Just as Oxbow’s product selection continues to evolve, so to does the organization itself. That is why after more than 30 years at its original location on the Miller family farm in Murdock, Neb., the company relocated to a new facility in Omaha in 2017. According to Ross, the move was necessary accommodate Oxbow’s dynamic growth.
“While it wasn’t easy to say goodbye to the location that had been home to multiple generations of family farming experiences and three decades of company milestones, our new facility in Omaha was custom designed and built to meet the needs of our people and processes, with the technology, infrastructure and increased capacities to help us meet our standards and position us to evolve in the years to come,” she says.
Going Beyond Products
While its constantly evolving product lineup goes a long way in ensuring that small pets are happy and healthy, Oxbow has taken on a broader role in advancing pet care standards by supporting the scientists whose research provides the basis for those standards. For example, the company offers the Oxbow Academic Scholarship program, which Ross says was inspired by a desire to foster the development of tomorrow’s leaders in animal and veterinary sciences. For the past 15 years, this program has awarded scholarships to students across the country who are passionate about pursuing careers in veterinary science and other animal health-related fields. Recipients include graduating high schoolers, current undergraduates, vet tech students and veterinary medicine students.
“We believe that investing in tomorrow’s leaders benefits the entire industry and we are passionate about supporting students every year through this valuable program,” says Ross.
Another important program in Oxbow’s effort to drive innovation in pet care is the Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award, which has been honoring outstanding veterinarians over the past decade. “Veterinarians are the lifeblood of the animal health community, and their professional guidance has been instrumental to Oxbow’s success from our very beginning,” Ross explains. “To show our gratitude and recognize excellence within this global community, we established the Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award in 2009. Also known as the ‘Quest,’ the Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award recognizes excellence and innovation in exotic mammal health medicine. Nominations are based on a sustained effort or extraordinary single achievement relating to leadership, education, research, innovation, and advocacy.”
Oxbow’s commitment to giving back extends beyond giving scholarships and awards, though, and included programs that provide animal rescue grants, as well as event and emergency assistance.
Quoting Oxbow CEO Deb Buhro’s statement that “Oxbow hires people who want to make a difference,” Ross says that the company believes in supporting individuals and organizations who make a difference “in our communities, industry and world each and every day.”
Oxbow’s most recent program in this area is the Oxbow KINDSWELL Initiative, which Ross says reflects the company’s commitment to making the world a better place for people and pets and encompasses a variety of community and industry impact efforts to benefit Oxbow team members, the communities in which they live, as well as the greater pet community.
“At the heart of the KINDSWELL Initiative are programs designed to support the passions of employees who want to make a difference in their communities,” she says. “KINDSWELL programs include Paid Volunteer Time Off, the KINDSWELL Volunteer Grant Program, and Fundraising Support. Employees are encouraged to share their time and talents to strengthen their communities, and Oxbow is honored to support causes that are important to our team members.”
Of course, Oxbow also understands the vital role that retailers play within the pet care community and stands ready and able to offer valuable support to these partners. “We recognize the competitive challenges independent retailers face each day and we’re proud to support our partners through a variety of programs and support,” says Ross. “For example, our Preferred Store Program provides a host of programs and savings to qualifying stores, including special designation on our online store locator, exclusive educational resources, point-of-sale materials, frequent buyer programs, in-store feeding support, and more.
“In addition to these programs, our sales associates are committed to working with independent retailers on a one-on-one basis to provide training, education, and additional forms of support designed to help make store associates experts on small animal nutrition and care.” PB