Animal nutrition science involves understanding animal physiology with regard to diet and nutrition. Learn about academic programs and career requirements.
Animal nutrition science is the study of the diet and nutritional benefits of feed for animals. Degree programs focus on livestock, such as beef cattle, swine, poultry and dairy cattle. Through a degree program, you would learn about balancing vitamins, protein, carbohydrates and minerals to ensure that the livestock receive the maximum nutritional benefits. Some programs examine diets for fish, domesticated animals and wildlife.
To work in animal nutrition, you must like animals and care for their well-being. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), math and science are also useful for careers in this field (www.bls.gov). The abilities to analyze and apply data, communicate effectively and work on your own are also necessary. You should be patient and able to solve problems, too.
With a degree in animal nutrition, you could work at a farm or a ranch, providing a nutritional diet to livestock. You could also conduct research in animal nutrition, assess what animals are consuming and how that affects their health and the health of the people who consume the animals. Other options include working in animal care or becoming a veterinarian. According to the BLS, in 2010, about 3,680 people worked as farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers, about 54,480 individuals were veterinarians, 2,440 people worked as animal scientists and about 135,070 individuals worked as nonfarm animal caretakers.
The BLS projected that between 2008 and 2018, the employment for farmers and ranchers would decrease by eight percent, but that it would increase by 33% for veterinarians, by 13% for food scientists and by 21% for nonfarm animal caretakers. The BLS reported that as of May 2010, the median annual salary for nonfarm animal caretakers, which includes zookeepers, was $19,550. For animal scientists, the median annual salary was $58,250, for veterinarians it was $82,040 and for farmers and ranchers it was $60,750 as of May 2010, according to the BLS.
To pursue a career in animal nutrition, you could earn a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in animal nutrition or in animal science with a concentration in animal nutrition. With an undergraduate degree program in animal nutrition, you could explore the nutritional needs of livestock and ways to create and adapt a diet that includes fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and water. This could lead to a career as a zookeeper, farmer or rancher. It could also prepare you to pursue a graduate degree program in animal nutrition, animal science or a related field, such as veterinary medicine.
At the master's or doctoral degree levels, your animal nutrition courses may focus on a specific kind of animal, such as dairy cattle. You'll explore their nutritional needs, learn how reproduction affects their needs and discover techniques to balance a diet. You may also explore contemporary issues and problems in animal nutrition. Most schools require that you conduct research in animal and nutrition sciences by working with cattle, dairy cattle, poultry or swine. Upon graduation, you may find work as a college professor, researcher, animal scientist or with the FDA, testing the food animals consume and learning how what animals eat affects human health.