Animal Nutritionist

Animal nutritionists analyse the nutritional content of food and supplements, and devise nutritious, economical feeding programmes for all animals, from captive tigers to birds at bird feeders.

It is important for captive animals to be fed correctly. Whether they are pigs being bred for bacon or show dogs looking for that first place ribbon at a contest, 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 the meat will be for human consumption.

Animal nutritionists assess the nutritional and economic value of different feed products and combinations, investigate nutritional disorders, find ways to correct such disorders through the use of the correct food, write reports and give presentations

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 manufacturers of livestock feed.

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

They travel often if they work in agribusinesses, advising farmers and feed companies, or in order to conduct research.

Animal nutritionists may work closely with one type of 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 when carrying out research, but research for a feed production company. They work on their own, or alongside other nutritional scientists and animal health practitioners. Working hours can be irregular but it is not usually necessary to work during weekends. 

Animal nutritionists are important because they not only protect the animals we keep as companions, but they also ensure the well-being of animals many of us eat. They ensure that the animals are healthy, making sure that consumers do not get sick from diseased or malnourished animals that were not fed in accordance with a well-researched diet plan.

Personal Requirements

  • scientifically minded
  • have a good understanding of nutrition
  • enjoy working with animals
  • thorough, methodical and interested in research
  • be self-confident
  • have good communication skills
  • able to take both criticism and praise
  • able to work well independently and as part of a team
  • have an inquiring mind

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: MathematicsPhysical Sciences
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences 


Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
Check the minimum admission requirements for the specific university programme you are applying to enter. See, Admission Points Score (APS).

What to Study

Degree: Animal nutritionists require a university degree in agricultural, horticulture, veterinary science, equine science, medicine, biology or nutrition, or a combination of some of these, such as nutrition and agriculture.

Postgraduate: For specialisation in certain species of animals, a masters degree is required. They may also need to register with a professional body, depending on where they wish to practice.


  • veterinary hospitals or animal clinics
  • research departments at universities
  • animal feed production companies
  • governmental agricultural initiatives
  • freelance consultants to farmers and animal owners

Further Information

Agricultural Research Council
1134 Park Street, Hatfield
Tel: (012) 427-9700

Getting Started

  • speak to an animal nutritionist about this career
  • read up on the nutritional requirements of animals
  • try and do voluntary work in this field

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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