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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

Contact hours: 84 (59 lectures, 25 practicals)
Personal work hours: 66
Character: Compulsory
Venue: Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza.
- Developed in the first academic year of the Master, during the second semester.
- The assessment of this Unit consists of a written exam during the second semester.
Requisites and permanence
There are no previous requisites.
Learning methods
Combination of theoretical and practical sessions consisting of the analysis of case studies, solving of exercise, field work and technical visits.
Lecturers may deliver the course in Spanish, English or French. In the last 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 allows the student to learn the relationship between animal nutrition and animal health and welfare, emphasizing the factors of management that lead to safer and higher quality products. Likewise it underlines the main interactions between animal nutrition and the environment, providing the student with the necessary information and skills to establish feeding strategies and minimize the impact of nutrition. Through the practical activities the student learns to evaluate the impacts and become acquainted with environmentally-friendly production systems.


Context within the syllabus

Current animal nutrition cannot have a merely productivist aim. The specialist in animal nutrition must take care of health and animal welfare, guaranteeing safety and quality products for the consumer. The sustainability of production systems must also be assured, minimizing the effects of nutrition on the environment.



Specific competences

  • SC6 Understanding the relationships between animal nutrition, the environment and animal health and welfare.
  • SC7 Developing feeding strategies with a favourable influence on end product quality and animal health and welfare, minimizing environmental impacts ensuring the sustainability of productions.

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

This Unit has four fundamental objectives. The first is to provide the student with a sound understanding of the interrelationships between the nutrition and the animal health and welfare as well as with the production environment. The second objective is for the student to know how to optimize nutrition to reduce the environmental impacts in the various production systems to a minimum. The third objective is for the student to be able to plan management strategies in extensive systems which minimize the impact of grazing and maintain the biodiversity and the landscape value of the production area. Finally this unit aims to provide knowledge on and experience in new environmental-friendly production systems.

Learning outcomes

Importance of the learning outcomes acquired in this unit

Society increasingly demands production systems that are safe, guarantee the animal health and welfare and that do not endanger the environment. The feed type and nutrition management influence these aspects considerably, therefore the animal nutrition professional must have a sound knowledge of the interactions and through which strategies animal health and welfare can be improved and the environmental impact of nutrition can be minimized.

Learning outcomes

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

  • Analyses the nutritional aspects influencing animal health and welfare.
  • Knows how to apply alternative nutrition systems that minimize disease risks, guaranteeing animal food safety at the same time.
  • Minimizes stress risk and improving animal welfare by applying adequate feeding strategies.
  • Knows the interaction of animal nutrition practices with the environment and the sustainability of production systems.
  • Assesses the impacts of nutrition in intensive and extensive systems, and considers feed resources to be used and nutrition management strategies to be applied to minimize those impacts.
  • Is aware of the role played by grazing in landscape management and conservation.
  • Analyses the possibilities offered by alternative production systems, such as organic production and other environmental-friendly certification systems.



  • Health and nutrition
    • Immunonutrition: nutrition, disease and performance relationships
    • Use of probiotics and nutriceuticals
    • Alternatives to the use of antibiotics in animal feeding
    • Bioactive forages to reduce parasite burdens
    • Avoiding anti-nutrient derived toxicity
  • Welfare and nutrition
    • Definition and assessment of welfare
    • Welfare implications of hunger and malnutrition
    • Nutritional management under thermal stress
    • Nutritional stereotypes
  • Animal production and environmental interactions
    • Sustainable animal production and farming systems. The role of livestock in maintaining rural areas
    • Legislative framework
    • Gaseous emissions
    • Excreta
    • Water use
    • Grazing impacts
    • Environmental impact of the feed industry, including the use of GMOs
  • Reducing environmental impact in intensive systems through nutritional management
    • Optimizing nutrient capture by ruminants: synchronisation of protein/energy supply to the rumen, enhancing nutrient utilization
    • Modification of rumen fermentation to reduce gaseous emissions
    • Optimizing nutrition of pigs and poultry to reduce the environmental impact
    • Farm budgets for phosphorous and nitrogen
    • Impacts of trace element supplementation
  • Livestock/environment interactions in extensive systems
    • Impact of grazing on vegetation structure and composition
    • Carrying capacity of rangelands: overgrazing
    • Using livestock as tools for land management
    • Livestock-wildlife interactions
    • Side effects on invertebrates and birds
  • Environmental-friendly production systems
    • Animal nutrition in organic production
    • Other farm-assured systems
  • Case studies
  • Practicals
  • Technical visits

Learning activities

Learning activity 1: Lectures combined with applied examples
ECTS: 4.5
Hours: 114
Percentage of contact: 52%

Learning activity 2: Case studies to:
(1) Calculate energy and nutrient balances to assess gas and effluents emissions.
(2) Deepen knowledge on parasite management through grazing.
ECTS: 0.4
Hours: 10
Percentage of contact: 60%

Learning activity 3: Solving of exercises. Students work individually searching information on good practices to control contamination from livestock activities and propose their application to a particular production system with which they are familiar.
ECTS: 0.3
Hours: 7
Percentage of contact: 30%

Learning activity 4: Field work. The students work in groups on the analysis of grazed plots with semi-natural vegetation, measuring vegetation patterns, faeces distribution and soil characteristics to determine changes in natural conditions and the conservation of biodiversity .
ECTS: 0.2
Hours: 5
Percentage of contact: 60%

Learning activity 5: Technical visits to complement the learning from lectures and in the laboratory, illustrating the real application of methods, techniques and strategies. The visits and their particular learning objectives are:
(1) Water treatment plant La Almozara. Learning objectives: to learn how the plant functions, wastewater treatment requirements and different treatment techniques applied.
(2) Landscape management and grazing in the Pyrenees area. The itinerary involves various farms and regional centres of interest. Learning objectives: to become acquainted with the ecological characteristics and the agricultural and livestock management of mountain farms, understand the spatial organization and management of pastures, and discuss the different strategies applied for meat cattle and sheep.
(3) Experimental meat cattle farm “Bescos de la “Garcipollera” (Zaragoza). Learning objectives: to become familiar with and discuss the organic production system of fattening calves in mountain areas.
ECTS: 0.6
Hours: 16
Percentage of contact: 100%


Assessment method

Assessment system 1: Written exams, composed by 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 the theoretical part and the understanding of case studies.
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: 93% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 2: Direct assessment by the lecturer tutoring the exercises on good control practices.
Understanding of the methodology, quality of information gathered and the pertinence of the proposed applications will be assessed.
Weighting: 4% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 3: Direct assessment by the lecturers tutoring the field work.
Understanding of the methodology and the validity of the results obtained will be assessed.
Weighting: 3% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 4: Direct assessment by the lecturers tutoring the technical visits. The marking is not numerical but a “pass” or “fail”.
Active participation and compliance with previously established guidelines for process observation will be assessed.
Weighting: -


Lecturers from the University of Zaragoza

Faculty of Veterinary Science, Department of Animal Production and Food Science:
Gustavo MARÍA (levrino@unizar.es)

Lecturers from other institutions

Isabel CASASÚS, CITA-GA, Zaragoza, Spain
Pilar DE FRUTOS, Instituto de Ganadería de Montaña (CSIC-ULE), León, Spain
Antoni DALMAU, IRTA, Girona, Spain
Peter DENNIS, Univ. Aberystwyth, United Kingdom
Jean-Yves DOURMAD, INRA, Saint-Gilles L’Hermitage, France
Federico FILLAT, Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología (CSIC-IPE), Jaca, Spain
Phil GARNSWORTHY, Univ. Nottingham, Leics, United Kingdom 
Gonzalo GONZÁLEZ MATEOS, Univ. Politécnica Madrid, Spain
Mariano GORRACHATEGUI, Consultor, Madrid, Spain
Ilias KYRIAZAKIS, Univ. Newcastle, United Kingdom
John MILNE, The James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, United Kingdom 
Koldo OSORO, SERIDA, Villaviciosa, Spain
Jamie ROBERTSON, Univ. Abeerden, United Kingdom
Gerardo SANTOMÁ, Trouw Nutrition, Barcelona, Spain
Joaquin URIARTE, CITA-GA, Zaragoza, Spain
Andy VINTEN, The James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, United Kingdom