Animal Health & Disease Management

Nutritional Problems (new)

Energy and Protein Deficiency


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 formation of body tissue. Proteins can be derived from feed and are formed by intestinal flora.

Adequate suppy 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 the degree of production expected from the animal. Prolonged deficiency of both proteins and energy would result in loss of condition and in ability to be productive. 

Malnutrition if prolonged eventually leads to death. Malnutrition caused by lack of energy and proteins may occur anywhere in the world but 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. 

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


Signs of Energy and Protein Deficiency

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 or digestibility or expense. Sometime forage may contain an excess of water, limiting energy intake. 

Energy deficiencies result in: 

  • Retarded growth in young animals and a delay in the onset of puberty.
  • A shortened lactation in milking animals and decline in milk production.
  • In mature animals, a marked loss of bodyweight, especially during late pregnancy and early lactation.
  • Prolonged periods of anoestrus, lasting several months, which have marked effect on the reproductive performance of a breeding herd.
  • Calves and lambs may be born weak and undersized.


Protein Deficiency 

Protein deficiencies usually accompany energy deficiencies. They are not usually as severe and take the form of: 

  • Reduced appetite in young animals.
  • Lowered feed intake.
  • Lack of muscle development.
  • A prolonged time to reach maturity.
  • In mature animals there is loss of weight and decreased milk production.



Prevention - Control - Treatment

Treatment and prevention of malnutrition is beyond the reach of most farmers. Diseases that worsen the effects of malnutrition can be alleviated by appropriate treatment e.g. deworming. Severely malnourished animals usually do not survive even when food again become available, so if a drought is expected or feed sources otherwise too few, it is wisest to sell/slaughter the weaker animals before the condition goes down too much. 

Malnourished animals should not be forced to be productive e.g. by putting them to work. This will only worsen the condition.

Review Process

  1. William Ayako, KARI Naivasha. Aug - Dec 2009 
  2. Hugh Cran, Practicing Veterinarian Nakuru. March - Oct 2010 
  3. Review workshop team. Nov 2 - 5 2010
  4. January 2013: Review by Gidi Smolders orgANIMprove
  5. September 2013: Addition of Acidosis, Ketosis by Dr Mario Younan, VSF-G Kenya/Somalia (Oct 2017)
  6. October 2013: Addition of Bloat by Infonet (Oct 2017)


  • For Infonet: Anne Bruntse, Dr Hugh Cran
  • For KAR: Dr Mario Younan KARI/KASAL, William Ayako - Animal scientist, KARI Naivasha
  • For Department of Veterinary Services: Dr Josphat Muema - District Veterinary Officer Isiolo, Dr Charity Nguyo - Kabete Extension Division, Mr Patrick Muthui - Senior Livestock Health Assistant Isiolo, Ms Emmah Njeri Njoroge - Senior Livestock Health Assistant Machakos
  • Pastoralists: Dr Eyra Saitoti Kotonto - Private practioner, Abdi Gollo H.O.D. Segera Ranch
  • Farmers: Benson Chege Kuria and Francis Maina Gilgil and John Mutisya Machakos
  • Language and format: Carol Gachiengo

Information Source Links

  • Barber, J., Wood, D.J. (1976) Livestock management for East Africa: Edwar Arnold (Publishers) Ltd 25 Hill Street London WIX 8LL. ISBN: 071310063X
  • Blood, D.C., Radostits, O.M. and Henderson, J.A. (1983) Veterinary Medicine - A textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Sheep, Goats and Horses, Sixth Edition - Bailliere Tindall London. ISBN: 0702012866
  • Blowery, R.W. (1986). A Veterinary book for dairy farmers: Farming press limited Wharfedale road, Ipswich, Suffolk IPI 4LG
  • Force, B. (1999). Where the is no Vet. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands. ISBN 978-0333-58899-4.
  • Hall, H.T.B. (1995). Diseases and parasites of Livestock in the tropics. Second Edition. Longman Group UK. ISBN 0582775140
  • Hunter, A. (1996). Animal health: General principles. Volume 1 (Tropical Agriculturalist) - Macmillan Education Press. ISBN: 0333612027
  • Hunter, A. (1996). Animal health: Specific Diseases. Volume 2 (Tropical Agrculturalist) - Macmillan Education Press. ISBN: 0-333-57360-9
  • Pagot, J. (1992). Animal Production in the Tropics and Subtropics. MacMillan Education Limited London. ISBN 0-333-53818-8

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