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Master in

Animal nutrition

Next edition: 1st part: 27 September 2021 – July 2022 / 2nd part: September 2022 – June 2023

Master in

Animal nutrition

General information on the Unit

ECTS: 10
Contact hours: 132 (88 lectures, 44 practicals)
Personal work hours: 118
Character: Compulsory
Venue: Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza and laboratories of the Department of Animal Production and Food Science of the Faculty of Veterinary Science of the University of Zaragoza
- Developed during the first academic year of the Master, at the beginning of the first semester.
- The assessment of this Unit consists of two exams during the first semester.
Requisites and permanence
There are no previous requisites
Learning methods
Combination of theoretical and practical sessions consisting of the analysis of case studies and laboratory work.
Lecturers deliver the topics in Spanish, English or French. In the latter two cases, simultaneous interpretation into Spanish is provided. The documents supplied by the lecturers may also be written in Spanish, English or French.


Presentation of the Unit

This Unit provides the student with the scientific principles of animal nutrition and feeding, furthering knowledge of the chemical composition and physical properties of feeds, digestion processes, nutrient metabolism, feed evaluation systems, nutrient requirements, and intake control and estimation mechanisms. It includes a series of practical activities to analyse feeds and make a nutritional evaluation as well as to estimate intake and nutrient requirements.


Context within the syllabus

This Unit provides the bases of animal nutrition and feeding and therefore is of vital importance for the optimum performance of the student in the subsequent units.



Specific competences

  • ­ SC1 Knowing the characteristics of different feeds and their components and how to evaluate their nutritional value.
  • SC2 Understanding the processes involved in digestion and the metabolism of nutrients, estimating animal nutrient requirements and calculating and controlling feed intake.

General competences

  • ­ GC1 Integrating scientific and technical knowledge and applying them discerningly.
  • ­ GC3 Analyzing results or strategies and elaborating conclusions which contribute to clarify the problems and to find possible solutions.
  • ­ GC6 Team-working and promoting exchange and collaboration attitudes with other students, researchers and professionals.


Objectives of learning

The Unit has three fundamental objectives. The first is to provide the students with knowledge on feed composition, their digestion processes, and nutrient metabolism. The second objective is for the student to learn to evaluate the nutritional value of the different feed components, through the application of various systems. The third objective is to provide the student with the necessary knowledge and techniques to evaluate the animal's nutrient requirements in the different growth and production stages and to estimate, control and predict feed intake.

Learning outcomes

Importance of the learning outcomes acquired in this Unit

The specialist in nutrition should have a sound and updated basis leading to greater insight of the physiological processes of nutrition and the nutritional value of feed in order to control these processes and estimate the nutrient requirements and feed intake necessary for an optimum and sustainable production in different species and production stages.

Learning outcomes

The student, at the end of the learning of this Unit:

  • Is updated on the scientific basis and fundamental mechanisms of feed digestion and nutrient metabolism.
  • Knows the factors determining feeding quality, and has gained experience in the evaluation of energy and protein supply.
  • Knows how to estimate nutrient requirements and their balance in the different stages of growing and production.
  • Knows how to apply the appropriate methodology to estimate intake, and predict its variation.



  • Feed composition, nutrient digestion and metabolism
    • Chemical composition and physical properties of feed components
    • Microbiology of the digestive tract: ruminants and monogastrics
    • Comparative digestion: processes, end products and efficiency
    • Intermediate metabolism: gut and liver
    • Tissue metabolism: bones, muscle, adipose tissue, reproductive tract and mammary gland
    • Nutrigenomics
  • Feed evaluation
    • Energy evaluation systems
    • Protein evaluation systems
    • Mineral and vitamin availability
  • Nutrient requirements
    • Estimation and expression of nutrient requirements
    • Nutrient balance and body reserves
    • Maintenance, activity and thermal regulation
    • Growth and development
    • Reproduction, pregnancy and lactation
  • Feed intake
    • Control mechanisms
    • Estimation methodologies
    • Variation factors
  • Case studies
  • Practicals


Learning activities

Learning activity 1: Lectures combined with applied examples
Hours: 176
Percentage of contact: 50%

Learning activity 2: Case studies to estimate: (1) digestibility and energy balance of feed; (2) feed nutritive value; (3) nitrogen balance and cost of urea excretion; (4) energy expense, cost of activity and critical temperature; (5) feed intake in grazing animals; and (6) fill value and substitution rate.
Hours: 27
Percentage of contact: 60%

Learning activity 3: Laboratory practicals for:
(1) Determining dry matter content, organic matter and crude protein, and fractioning of cell wall in forage and concentrates.
(2) Analysing the physical characteristics of feed by estimating average particle size and particle size distribution with sieves of different mesh size.
(3) Assessing nutritional value of feed, through in vitro, in situ and enzymatic methods.
Hours: 47
Percentage of contact: 60%

Assessment methods

Assessment system 1: Written exams, composed of questions provided by the different lecturers of the Unit. The exam is made up of concrete questions requiring a short answer, being possible also multiple-choice tests. The exam assesses both the content of theoretical part and the understanding of case studies and laboratory practicals.
In the written exams, the short-answer questions are marked according to the technical and conceptual precision of the answer, and to the reasoning approach. The multiple-choice tests are marked according to the number of correct answers, rating negatively the wrong answers chosen within the same question.
Weighting: 100% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 2: Direct assessment by the lecturer tutoring laboratory practicals. The marking is not numerical but a "pass" or "fail". With a "pass", the student may take the written exam.
Understanding of the process and interpretation of analytical results will be assessed.
Weighting: -



Lecturers from the University of Zaragoza

Facultyof Veterinary Science, Department of Animal Production and Food Science:
Carlos CASTRILLO (ccastri@unizar.es)
Antonio DE VEGA (avega@unizar.es)
Manuel FONDEVILA (mfonde@unizar.es)
J.A. GUADA (jguada@unizar.es)

Lecturers from other institutions

Jacques AGABRIEL, INRA, Saint-Genes Champanelle, France
Joaquin BALCELLS, Univ. Lleida, Spain
René BAUMONT, INRA, Saint-Genes Champanelle, France
Valérie BERTHELOT, Agroparistech, Paris, France
François BOCQUIER, Ecole National Supérieure Agronomique, Montpellier, France
Gerardo CAJA, Univ. Autónoma Barcelona, Spain
Marie-Pierre ELLIES, Bordeaux Sciences Agro, Gradignan, France
Josep GASA, Univ. Autónoma Barcelona, Spain
Gonzalo GONZÁLEZ MATEOS, Univ. Politécnica de Madrid, Spain
Diego Pablo MORGAVI, INRA, Saint-Genes Champanelle, France
Ester MOLINA, Univ. Lleida, Spain
Gonzalo RINCÓN, Zoetis, Kalamazoo, USA
John ROBINSON, Scottish Agricultural College, Aberdeen, UK
Bernard SÈVE, INRA, Saint-Gilles L'Hermitage, France
Jaap VAN MILGEN, INRA, Saint-Gilles L’Hermitage, France