Animal nutritionist: job description

Animal nutritionists are scientists who analyse the nutritional value of animal feeds and provide livestock dietary advice to farming, agricultural and public sector staff.
A small number of universities offer specialist degree courses in animal nutrition.

What does an animal nutritionist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Animal nutritionists undertake research and plan diets in order to provide domestic animals and livestock with nutritionally balanced food stuffs. Responsibilities of the job include:

  • assessing the relative nutritional values of various feeds
  • supporting the work of agricultural advisers/consultants
  • visiting farms
  • interpreting forage analysis
  • using specialist computer software to devise diets and produce reports
  • working with clients to formulate diets that meet their requirements/objectives
  • analysing nutritional disorders
  • maintaining awareness of technical and scientific developments

Working hours can be irregular but it is not usually necessary to work during weekends. Freelance work is an option once you have accumulated experience and contacts.

Typical employers of animal nutritionists

  • Animal and pet feed manufacturers
  • Agricultural Development and Advisory Service (ADAS)
  • The Scottish Agricultural College
  • Nutritional research centres
  • Hannah Research Institute
  • Government agricultural departments
  • Universities
  • Consultancies

Jobs are advertised by specialist recruitment agencies, in local/national newspapers and publications including New Scientist, Farmers' Weekly, Scottish Farmer, Farmers Guardian, the Horse and Hound and their online equivalents. ADAS and several of the larger animal feed companies run annual graduate recruitment schemes, for which applications should be made early in the academic year.

Qualification and training required

A degree in equine studies, animal/veterinary science, medical sciences, agriculture, horticulture or crop/plant science is usually required for entry into the profession. Graduates from closely related degree disciplines (biology for example) may also be eligible if they undertake a relevant postgraduate qualification. Some vacancies may require a relevant PhD. Pre-entry work experience can be helpful. It is also advantageous to register with the Nutrition Society, which costs £20 for students and graduates.

Key skills for animal nutritionists

  • Ability to undertake independent research
  • Ability to communicate with clients, customers and fellow scientists
  • IT and numeracy skills
  • Self management and self motivation
  • Ability to write reports and keep good records

A full driving licence is very useful.

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