Animal Feed & Nutrition

Learn to manage food and nutrition for pets, farm animals or wildlife in zoos. This course introduces animal foods, food components, evaluating food and digestibility for animals, classifying foods and calculating rations.

Duration (approx)

100 hours


Statement of Attainment

What do Animals Eat?

Learn to manage food and nutrition for pets, farm animals or wildlife in zoos. This course introduces animal foods, food components, evaluating food and digestibility for animals, classifying foods and calculating rations.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

    • Terms and Definitions
    • Groups of Foods
    • Other Terms That Are Used
    • Food Processing Terms
    • Water
    • Carbohydrates
    • Carbohydrates as a Source Of Energy
    • Fats and Oils
    • Adipose Tissue Deposits in Animals
    • Fat Deposits in Different Animals
    • Composition of Proteins
    • The Build Up Of Proteins
    • Biological Value of Protein
    • Protein Content of Foods
    • The Function of Protein
    • Feeding Urea to Ruminants
    • Major Minerals
    • Trace Elements
    • Vitamins
    • Analysis of Feed Stuffs
    • Calculating Digestibility
    • Protein Value
    • Energy Value
    • Nutrient Value of Some Common Foods
    • Cereals and Cereal By-Products
    • Brewing By-Products
    • Grasses, Legumes and Succulents
    • Lucerne
    • Sainfoin
    • Other Succulent Foods
    • Roughage, Hay, Silage and Dried Grass
    • Oil and Legume Seeds
    • Oil Seeds and Their Products
    • Legume Seeds
    • Fodder Trees and Animal Products
    • Fodder Trees and Shrubs
    • Animal Products
    • The Object of Rationing
    • Nutritional Requirements of the Animal
    • Calculating a Maintenance Ration
    • Cattle at Pasture
    • Working Out Rations for a Herd
    • Nutrient Requirements for a Dairy Cow
    • Working Out the Total Requirements
    • Feeding a Ration to Meet Nutrient Needs
    • The Dairy Ration
    • Ready Mix Feeds
    • Using Protein Contents
    • A Summary of Rationing
    • Further Considerations in Rationing

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school’s tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe the range of livestock feeds and feeding methods available for animal production, using accepted industry terminology.
  • Explain the role of energy foods, including the sources and functions of those foods, in animal diets.
  • Explain the function of the major nutritional groups, including proteins, vitamins, minerals and trace elements in animal diets.
  • Explain the on-farm methods used to evaluate feeding, including selection of feeds and feed digestibility.
  • Evaluate the dietary value of pastures, including grasses, cereals, and other edible plants, and their by-products for animal feeds.
  • Explain the dietary value of seeds, including oil seeds, legume seeds and their by-products as food sources for animals.
  • Evaluate the dietary value of fodder plants, including trees and shrubs and their by-products, as a food source in animal production.
  • Determine suitable feed rations for a farm animal maintenance program.
  • Analyse the method(s) to determine suitable feed rations in a farm animal production program.
  • Evaluate the dietary value of protein in an animal production program.
  • Explain the factors affecting the composition of feed rations in animal production.

What You Will Do

  • Explain the importance of feed quality in livestock production.
  • Describe the various food groups that animal foodstuffs are based upon.
  • Define at least fifteen relevant industry terms related to livestock feed, feeding and feed processing.
  • Explain the role of water in animal nutrition.
  • Describe three different, commercially available, animal feeds, including the composition and appropriate uses for each.
  • List the chemical names of at least five different carbohydrates which are of importance to animal production.
  • Evaluate the roles of four different carbohydrates in animal metabolism.
  • List the important sources of carbohydrates for at least four different types of farm animals.
  • List the chemical names of at least five different fats which are important to animal production.
  • Compare fat deposition patterns in three different animals.
  • Explain the role of two different lipids in animal metabolism.
  • List the important sources of fats and lipids used in livestock feeds.
  • Explain the importance of proteins to animal production.
  • Describe the chemical composition of naturally occurring proteins.
  • List the sources of protein commonly used in foodstuffs for two different types of farm animal species.
  • Explain the differences in protein requirements for different animals.
  • List five vitamins of importance in livestock nutrition.
  • List five minerals of importance in livestock nutrition, including their: *source foods *requirement levels *physiological functions *deficiency symptoms.
  • List five trace elements of importance in livestock nutrition, and including their: *source foods *requirement levels *physiological functions *deficiency symptoms.
  • Prepare a one page chart or table comparing the vitamin, mineral, protein and trace elements components of three different commercial animal feeds.
  • Explain the function and source of the various nutritional components found in three different commercial livestock nutrient supplements.
  • Describe the components of a specified animal feed.
  • Distinguish between the ‘protein value’ and ‘energy value’ of two specified animal feeds.
  • Explain the concept of ‘digestibility’ as it relates to animal feed.
  • Describe the techniques used to calculate digestibility of animal feeds.
  • Perform a calculation of digestibility for a specified feed.
  • Describe two standard methods used to assess animal feeds.
  • Compare five different feeds, in terms of *composition *relative digestibility *palatability.
  • List at least five cereal and cereal by-product feeds used in animal production.
  • Describe the food value characteristics of five cereals and cereal by-product feeds used in animal production.
  • List at least five grasses and forage crops used as farm animal feeds.
  • Describe the dietary value of five forage crops, including grasses, used in animal production.
  • List at least five harvested feed products, including hay, roughage and silage used as feeds in animal production.
  • Explain the dietary value characteristics of five harvested feed products including hays, roughage and silage used in animal production.
  • Explain the dietary value of a growing pasture, on a farm visited and studied by you.
  • Compare the nutritional value to farm animals, of ten different pasture foodstuffs, including cereals, grasses, hay and their by-products.
  • List four oil seeds (or their by-products) used as feeds in animal production.
  • Explain the use of oil seeds (or their by-products) as animal feeds.
  • List three legume seeds used as feeds in animal production.
  • Evaluate the dietary value of three different legume seeds, as animal feeds.
  • Collect small samples of three oil seeds and three legume seeds.
  • Compare the characteristics of two different oil seed species, with two different legume seed species. -List five fodder plants (or their by-products) used as feed in animal production.
  • Provide recommendations on how three different fodder plant species may be used as an animal feed source on a specified farm.
  • Compare the nutritional value of three different fodder plant species.
  • Explain the objective of maintenance rationing in two different farm situations observed by you.
  • Explain the differences in feed rations given to maintain the same type of animal on two separate farms.
  • Describe the nutritional requirements of two different specified types of livestock.
  • Calculate a ‘maintenance feed ration’ for a specified farm animal.
  • Develop a maintenance feeding program, for a group of animals, such as a herd of cattle or flock of sheep.
  • Design three different types of animal feeds/rations, for three specified purposes.
  • Define, using examples, the concept of ‘production rations’.
  • Explain the objective of production rationing in two different farm situations observed by you.
  • Explain the differences in the production feed ration given to maintain the same type of animal on two different farms.
  • Explain the nutritional requirements for a specified type of production livestock.
  • Calculate a ‘production feed ration’ for a specified farm animal.
  • Develop a production feeding program for a herd of milking dairy cattle, in a specified locality.
  • Explain the uses of ready-mix feeds as protein supplements for farm animals in two specified situations.
  • Calculate, using two different methods, the protein requirements of a production feed ration for a specified farm animal.
  • Explain the assumptions behind feed ration calculations for farm animals in a specified situation.
  • Explain the rationing factors, including food quality and palatability, for three different specified situations.
  • Describe the role of acids in two different specified animal diets.


As with humans; the food needs of any animal will depend not only on the species, but also the breed, where it lives, it’s daily routine (eg. level of activity) and much more.

Animals in the wild tend to have fewer eating disorders than those in captivity; except perhaps during extraordinary events, such as prolonged drought.  Their bodies respond to seasonal and reproductive cycles. However, domestic animals and animals in captivity can be prone to eating disorders.

Activity Anorexia – is a condition with some similarities to the human mental health disorder known as anorexia nervosa. An animal with this condition begins to cut down on its food intake and increases its exercise levels.  If rats are given access to an exercise wheel and food, they will have a balanced routine between food and exercise and be healthy. If their food is restricted, but they have unrestricted access to the exercise wheel, they may begin to eat less and exercise more, which can lead to weight loss and eventually death. This does not occur when the rats are given restricted access to the wheel and unrestricted food supplies.

This type of research suggests that the running behaviour is similar to the natural behaviour of rats – foraging, so when the rat begins to starve its response is to look around for more food, hence the exercise wheel behaviour increases.  This type of behaviour is also found in primates. Rhesus monkeys become hyperactive if their food is reduced in the long term.

Whilst humans can have eating disorders, diagnosing an eating disorder in an animal is more difficult. We have to determine whether the maladaptive eating condition in the animal is due to a medical disorder, medication, behaviour or nutrition.

Overeating – some animals will overeat, but this is more about how they are fed rather than an eating disorder as such. Owners may misinterpret a pet’s signals and assume they are begging for food, meaning they are hungry. But dogs, for example, may beg for food because it is a normal canine behaviour, not because they are actually hungry. Over time if the owner keeps giving in to the begging, the dog can become overweight and its health is at risk. Dogs are opportunistic feeders. They do not stop eating just because they are full. Cats are slightly different. Cats are born to hunt. But whilst they may hunt excessively, they will not usually eat excessively. However, cats can become obese if they do not have to hunt for their food or their food source is too available.

Certain medical conditions can also cause overeating – such as Cushing’s disease, diabetes and hyperthyroidism.

Under-eating – other animals may under-eat. It is acceptable for a dog to miss the odd meal, but a longer period without eating can be serious for cats.  They may develop fatty liver disease or hepatic lipidosis. When this occurs the cat will literally starve themselves to death by refusing more food.

Weight loss – is usually the first sign of an illness, but it can also have behavioural roots. For example, if there is a bereavement in a family, a pet may show signs of loss, such as reduced appetite and social withdrawal.

Pica – some animals will eat “random objects”. This is known as pica. It tends to occur more in dogs than cats, although cats can also display some forms of pica behaviour. Some breeds, such as Siamese cats, are more predisposed to pica than other breeds. Cats have been observed chewing non-food substances such as wool, plastic, cardboard, and so on, then ingesting the substances. This is usually seen in the first two months of the cat’s life and often when they are introduced to a new home. One theory is that this is a response to early weaning and separation from their mother and litter, leading to stress.  Eating wool may be a way the cat soothes itself as it comes to terms with its new environment.

Why Study Animal Feed and Nutrition?

There are many reasons you may need to learn about animal feed and nutrition requirements, including:

  • As a farmer or pet owner; to better care for your animal
  • To care for animals you work with (eg. in animal rescue, animal health care, a zoo, pet shop, etc)
  • To manufacture or market animal food products

This course can be a very useful learning experience for these or any other situation where you find yourself involved with providing services or products to support the health and wellbeing of farm animals, pets or wildlife.

What Should You Study?

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