Agriculture holds a whole host of opportunities in terms of career paths, but many people often forget about the behind the scenes work that goes on when it comes to animal care. If you'd love to work with animals but would prefer more of a balance between the farmyard and the lab, then one of many animal feed jobs could be for you.
A particularly popular option is becoming an animal nutritionist, which is a highly valuable role that ensures the health and well-being of livestock.
What exactly does an animal nutritionist do?
Just like a nutritionist for humans, you'll be focusing on how the diet of animals impacts their overall health. It's key to ensure that the types of food animals are eating benefits them in the best possible way, particularly as they'll provide food sources for humans later.
It's up to you whether you decide to focus on a particular type of animal and specialise, or whether you want to work on nutrition across the board. Many nutritionists even branch out into working with zoos and pets, though it's in agriculture where the bulk of your efforts are likely to be needed.
The types of tasks you can expect
Being an animal nutritionist isn't quite as simple as making a meal plan and monitoring the amount of food animals are being given. You'll be involved with formulating feeds in labs, using both nutritional and chemical information to determine the best combinations for specific purposes. Different feeds focus on optimising various things, such as performance, overall health, reproduction and growth.
In the lab, sophisticated software is used to aid diet formulation. At times, the role of an animal nutritionist can be quite technical, especially when looking at certain disorders and illnesses that require special attention. This work will be conducted alongside veterinary surgeons for additional insight.
You'll also work closely with farmers to determine the needs of their livestock and any problems they might be having. Together, you can find a diet plan that works best for the animals in question, as well as the environment and economy. But the work of a nutritionist doesn't end here, as it's important to monitor the efficacy of plans and feeds put in place. Research is a large part of being able to improve feeding systems and agriculture on a wider scale.
This also means staying on top of the latest developments in your industry. It's important to be aware of other work that's going on as well as changes to regulations in animal feed. These regulations must always be upheld to ensure livestock is later suitable for human consumption. Harmful chemicals or foods from unsatisfactory sources could prove to be damaging to agricultural produce and those who consume it.
Like with most jobs in agriculture, you're unlikely to be working regular hours. When making a trip to a farm you may be needed early in the morning or later in the evening, and don't expect weekends to be free all the time either.
In terms of your working environment, it can be varied, from on-site at the farm to in a lab or an office. Some animal nutritionists work from home, acting as consultants to those requesting advice. Although research and hands-on work is all a part of the role, day to day it involves a lot of independent work.
However, animal feed companies also employ nutritionists which is probably a more common starting point. Although pursuing a freelance route is a consideration for the future, it's always best to build up experience with a company beforehand.
How can you become an animal nutritionist
Due to the technical nature of the role, it's helpful to have at least an undergraduate degree in a subject related to nutrition or animal care. More specialised roles will require a PhD, though many people decide to gain work experience in a more junior position before considering moving onto these. It's also worth considering becoming registered with the Association for Nutrition, which is available to those with a degree in nutrition. Although there are no new skills you'll gain as a result, employers are often impressed by this extra layer of credibility.
Why is an animal nutritionist's role so important today?
Arguably, more than ever, the agricultural industry has a need for animal nutritionists. With growing concerns over the use of antibiotics in animal feed, it's essential that there's extensive research and development within the industry to make sure food remains safe for the population. Organic feed isn't always the answer, however, as additional costs would make the produce unaffordable for the majority of the population. Furthermore, livestock can fall ill or be less productive if antibiotic use is stopped completely, meaning that some farms won't produce enough food or money to continue functioning. Therefore, it's up to nutritionists to find better solutions, using their knowledge of both animal and human dietary needs.
Equally, with the threat of climate change and environmental pressures, there's an increasing demand for agriculture that's sustainable. Although often not considered, animal nutritionists can help to find more sustainable sources and processes of manufacturing feed that benefits the planet. It's well known that farming meat uses more resources than farming vegetables, yet it remains a key way to combat hunger. Feed processing and production actually make up 45% of the greenhouse gasses associated with livestock farms, making it a crucial area to improve upon.
Get in touch
Here at Agricultural Recruitment Specialists, we're eager to help you begin your journey as an animal nutritionist or on another related career path. We have years of expertise in sourcing agricultural jobs and matching them with the perfect candidate. If you need any advice about jobs in the industry, then contact our professional team for a no-obligation chat today.
Agricultural Recruitment Specialists are the worldwide leader in headhunting and recruitment for agricultural and farming positions. Take a look at our website today www.agriRS.co.uk to see what farming and agricultural jobs are available within the management sector and progress your career in the right direction. Alternatively, contact our team on 01905 345 155 or email us for more information at info@agriRS.co.uk