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March 6, 2021

Signs of protein and energy deficiencies in animals

All animals require energy and proteins for different body functions. Energy is required for maintenance (to maintain the body, respiration and digestion), production (growth, milk and workforce) and reproduction (pregnancy). An animal derives energy from dietary carbohydrates. Proteins are required for the formation of body tissue. Proteins can be derived from feed and are formed by intestinal flora.

An adequate supply of both energy and protein is essential for the general health of any animal. The requirement of both energy and protein by any animal depends on the bodyweight of the animal and the degree of production expected from the animal. Prolonged deficiency of both proteins and energy would result in loss of condition and inability to be productive.

Malnutrition if prolonged eventually leads to death. Malnutrition caused by lack of energy and proteins is more prevalent in the tropics. Animal feeds vary in their levels of energy and proteins. Straws such as rice straw and wheat straw are poor sources of both proteins and energy whereas concentrates like dairy meal may be rich in both.

Good quality pastures may provide adequate protein and energy for maintenance and production, especially in the tropics. However, in situations of drought or overgrazing, animals are liable to receive inadequate energy or proteins from pastures.

Common Signs of Energy and Protein Deficiency in Animals

1. Energy Deficiency

Deficiency of energy is the most common nutrient deficiency which limits the performance of grazing animals. Feed may be inadequate due to overgrazing, drought, poor quality, indigestibility or is expensive. Sometimes forage may contain an excess of water, limiting energy intake.

Energy deficiencies lead to: 

  1. Delayed growth in young animals and a delay in the onset of puberty.
  2. A shortened lactation in milking animals and a decline in milk production.
  3. A marked loss of body weight, especially for animals in late pregnancy and early lactation.
  4. Prolonged periods of uncyclicity (anoestrus), lasting several months, which have marked effect on the reproductive performance of a breeding herd.
  5. Calves, lambs, kids, piglets and kits may be born weak and undersized.

2. Protein Deficiency
Most at times, protein deficiencies usually go hand in hand with energy deficiencies. Protein may be deficient due to overgrown feed, drought, indigestibility, poor quality or is expensive.

Protein deficiency lead to:

  1. Decreased appetite in young animals.
  2. Reduced feed intake in all animals.
  3. Lack of muscle development, thus taking longer to reach the market weight or breeding weight.
  4. A prolonged time to reach maturity.
  5. Mature animals lose weight and decrease milk production.

It is prudent that you provide your animals right from when they are young with good quality and enough energy and protein to avoid encountering the challenges mentioned above that are detrimental to your farm’s profitability.

Author: Dr. Paul R. N. Kangethe (BVM, UoN)

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