Sources of Nutrient for Farm Animals

What nutrients do animals need?

For healthy growth and productive performance, animals need some certain nutrients; these nutrients are divided into six major classes: water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. Nutrients can be obtained from any of these classes. Common sources of nutrients for agricultural animals include Roughages and Concentrates.

Roughages are low in energy, such as grasses, hays, and silages. Concentrates include feed that is high in energy but low in fiber such as grains.

  • Water

How long can one survive without water? Not long. Water is vital for all animals and makes up more than one-half of most animals’ bodies; essential for processes such as digestion, blood circulation, and waste elimination. Water helps dissolve nutrients and also regulates body temperature through perspiration and evaporation. Animals need a fresh, clean source of water. Most of the water an animal consumes comes from the water it drinks.

Water also can be obtained from feed sources such as forage. Water is essential, especially for working animals or during hot weather. During hot weather or when working hard, horses can require 20 or more gallons of water per day.

  • Protein

Protein is made up of amino acids that are necessary for healthy animals. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are used for the formation of tissues and muscle production. Protein is needed for healthy growth, reproduction, and maintenance. Protein can be obtained from both plant and animal sources. Plant proteins are more common in livestock feeds and include soybean, cottonseed, and linseed, obtained from legume hays such as alfalfa or clover.

The level of requirement of protein varies in animals; for example, young growing animals need more protein than older animals. Protein is often the most expensive ingredient in feed. Crude protein refers to the total amount of protein in a feed while digestible protein is the protein that can be digested and used by an animal.

  • Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are nutrients that provide the main source of energy for activities the body performs. Carbohydrates provide energy for growth, maintenance, and reproduction. They also help produce body heat for warmth. Carbohydrates come from plants and include sugars, starches, and cellulose. The main sources of carbohydrates in feed are grains such as corn, oats, wheat, barley, rye, and grain sorghum. Forages and hay are also sources of carbohydrates.

  • Fats

One may not think of fats as being essential, but they are. Although fats are needed in small amounts they are a necessary part of the diet. Fats provide energy and store excess energy. Fats help produce body heat and carry fat-soluble vitamins in the body. Many sources of proteins are also sources of fats. Fats are found in both plants and animals. Plant fats include oils that are within seeds, which are the main source of fats in agricultural feeds.

  • Minerals

Minerals provide material for growth of bones, teeth, and tissue and also help regulate many of the body’s chemical processes. Minerals also help in muscular activities, reproduction, tissue repair, and body heat. Although mineral intake may account for a small portion of the total diet, it is essential. Minerals can be categorized as macro minerals or micro minerals. Macro minerals are needed in larger amounts by the body, and micro minerals are needed in smaller amounts. macro minerals include calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur. Micro minerals iron, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, silicon, and zinc. Minerals are often added to animal feed or fed free choice, which means animals are able to access at any time. For example, salt and mineral blocks are fed “free choice” where animals are able to access them anytime they want.

Animals may be able to tolerate minerals in excess of recommended quantities; however, excess minerals in some species can cause toxicity, even leading to death. Producers should always ensure that minerals are given in the appropriate amount to animals. Sheep are susceptible to copper toxicity, which can lead to death. Symptoms of copper toxicity in sheep include lethargy, anemia, pale membranes, thirst, and jaundice. Excess of some minerals can cause weight loss and slower rates of gain in some animals. Hogs that are given excess minerals may have slower gains, and cattle that have an excess of sodium and chloride can have reduced milk production and weight loss. Selenium toxicity in horses can cause appetite loss, hair loss, paralysis, and eventual death. An excess of some minerals may also interfere with the metabolism of other minerals. For example, sulfur toxicity in cattle can interfere with the metabolism of selenium, copper, molybdenum, and thiamin.

  • Vitamins

Vitamins are essential for normal body functions such as digestion, cell metabolism, growth, and reproduction. Like minerals, they are also needed in relatively small quantities. Vitamins help in tooth and bone formation, assist the body in Vitamins can be obtained from many different as in minerals, it is important for the producer to provide the appropriate vitamins.

Vitamins are fat soluble or water soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are dissolved in water, and fat-soluble vitamins are dissolved in fat. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. Vitamin D is necessary for bone development, and it is produced in the animal’s body. In order to produce vitamin D, the animal must be in sunlight for a other fat-soluble vitamins include blood clotting (vitamin K), reproduction and muscle development (vitamin E), healthy eyes, and preventing infection (vitamin A). Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and the B-complex. Vitamin C is needed for teeth and bone formation, and the prevention of infections.

B-complex vitamins are necessary for growth and reproduction. The B-complex vitamins, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, benzoic acid, choline, and B-12. The B-complex vitamins help many body functions such as red blood cell maturation (vitamin B-12) and energy metabolism.

All these are needed in the right proportion to enhance the animal performance, thus, increasing productivity.

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