Food consumed by animals gets digested, absorbed and used to generate energy to perform day to day activities. But not all the components of food are digestible. The components of food that are utilized by the body are called nutrients and the process of obtaining the food needed for health and growth is known as nutrition.
Classes and sources of nutrition
The six major classes of nutrients are water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. There are various sources of nutrition. In the case of animals, roughages and concentrates are the main sources of nutrition. Roughages, exemplified by grasses, roughages and silages are rich in fibre and low in energy. On the other hand, concentrates such as grains are rich in energy and low in fibre.
Water constitutes more than one-half of the animals’ bodies. It is vital for all physiological processes such as digestion, blood circulation and waste elimination. Water is the medium in which all the nutrients are dissolved. Water regulates body temperature through perspiration and evaporation. It is important to supply fresh and clean water to animals.
Protein is essential for healthy growth and maintenance and reproduction. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein are essential for the formation of tissues. Protein can be of plant or animal origin. Livestock feeds majorly consist of plant proteins such as oil cake meals, hay and straws. Fish meal, meat scraps etc. are sources of animal protein for livestock.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the regular functioning of the body. The main source of carbohydrates in livestock feed are grains such as oats, wheat, barley, corn, sorghum etc. forages and hay.
Fats are an important part of the animal diet; nevertheless, they are needed in small amounts. Fats act as storehouses of energy and also insulate the body. Oilseeds are the main source of fats in agriculture feeds.
Minerals aid in the healthy maintenance of bones and teeth, tissues and also regulate body chemical processes. Minerals are categorized as microminerals which are required in smaller amounts and macro minerals that are required in larger amounts by the body. Mineral intake accounts for a smaller proportion of the diet and their excess intake would result in toxicity.
Like minerals, vitamins are also required in smaller amounts. They perform a wide array of functions like metabolism, growth and reproduction, red blood cell maturation, digestion, bone and teeth formation, combating stress and prevention of infection. Vitamins can either be water-soluble or fat-soluble. Broadly, they are classified as vitamin A, B, C, D, E and K.
Desirable Characteristics of Nutrition
- The quantity of the feed should meet the requirements and production of the animal
- The nutrition provided should be palatable
- Balanced nutrition is the key to healthy growth. There should be a better and balanced mixture of proteins, vitamins and other nutrients
- The mineral matter should be present in enough quantities
- The feed should be fairly laxative to avoid constipation and other digestive troubles in the animals
- The feed should be fairly bulk
- Regularity in the feed timings should be maintained
- There should be enough green succulent fodder as they are bulky in nature, nutritious and easily digestible
- Sudden changes in the feed should be avoided
- It should be economical in terms of labour and cost
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