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Animal Nutritionist


Description

Animals have to eat. Whether they are pigs being bred for bacon or show dogs looking for that first place ribbon, the healthier an animal is, the longer it will live, the more receptive it will be to affection, and, in the case of food animals, the tastier and more nutritious it will be for humans.

Animal nutritionists work with animal health clinics, veterinary colleges, farmers and pet food manufacturers and farm feed production companies. They advise animal owners on nutritious diet plans, they tell farmers about healthy, cost-effective ways to feed their animals. They create new combinations of supplements and foods for sale and distribution.

They also advise farmers and animal owners on different feed requirements for pregnant animals, older animals, and sick or injured animals. They may discuss environmental issues related to feed production and waste management. They test and retest products, plans, and programs, to ensure their quality and effectiveness. If they work for a company that creates products to sell, and they may also market their products.

Animal nutritionists are important because they not only protect the animals we have with us as companions, but they also protect the animals many of us eat. They ensure that the animals are healthy, making sure no consumer gets sick from diseased, malnourished animals who didn't follow their well-researched diet plan.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Animal nutritionists need to be scientifically minded, have a good understanding of nutrition, and enjoy working with animals. They should be thorough, methodical and interested in research. They also require self-confidence, good communication skills and the ability to take both criticism and praise with a smile. They must be able to work well independently and as part of a team. Inquisitiveness, passion and a desire to learn new things will benefit anyone wanting to work as a animal nutritionist
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Analyze needs of client and develop a nutrition plan for their animal(s)
  • Develop new feed supplements for farmers
  • Assess the nutritional and economic value of different products and feed combinations
  • Investigate nutritional disorders
  • Look for ways to correct those disorders through food
  • Write reports and give presentations
  • Animal nutritionists may work closely with one animal at a time in an office, or they may devise feed plans for a farm of 3000 cattle. They may not even get near animals, but research for a feed production company. Whatever they do, most of each day is spent analyzing the nutritional content of food and supplements, devising nutritious, economical food plans for all animals, from captive tigers to birds at bird feeders. They travel often if they work in agribusiness, advising farmers and feed companies, or for research purposes. They meet many different types of people over the course of a day.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Animal nutritionists work as freelance consultants to farmers and animal owners, in veterinary hospitals or animal clinics. They may work with research departments at universities, animal feed production companies, and with governmental agricultural initiatives. They work regular hours, and rarely have to do weekend or evening shifts, unless there is some sort of emergency. They work alone, or alongside other nutritional scientists and animal health practitioners. They do travel, and work outdoors, especially if they are involved in livestock or farming.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Animal nutritionists can specialize in a particular species, advance to supervisory roles within a research department or branch out on their own and advise animal owners and farmers independent of any commercial or governmental umbrella. They can also become veterinarians or human dietitians.
 

  Educational Paths  
Animal nutritionists require a university degree in agricultural, horticulture, veterinary science, equine science, medicine, biology or nutrition, or a combination of a few of these, like nutrition and agriculture. For specialization in certain species, a master's degree is required. They may also need to register with an association, depending on where they wish to practice.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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