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Food safety for your animals

Health and Safety on farms can extend to what is fed to animals to keep them as healthy and safe as possible. Some animal feeds are surprisingly dangerous to some classes of stock, so it pays to read and understand the label when feed arrives.

There are a few things to be aware of when choosing a feed for your animal.


Coccidiostats are often found in calf, lamb, chick, dairy and some rabbit feeds and are important for these species to prevent a common parasitic issue. There are different forms of coccidiostat with different names such as Bovatec®, Rumensin®, Deccox® and Cycostat®. If a feed contains a coccidiostat, it should be stated on the label along with clear feeding instructions. Coccidiostats are classed as ACVM registered additives, meaning they can only be fed to approved species and may have withholding periods for eggs and milk, so it is important to check the label for this information. One major thing to note when it comes to coccidiostats is that some animals are very sensitive to them and it may cause health issues, or even death, if consumed. These animals include dogs, horses, donkeys and all camelids such as alpacas and llamas – it is therefore extremely important to ensure these animals cannot access coccidiostat-containing feeds. If accidental ingestion occurs, contact your vet.

Macromineral levels

Calcium, magnesium, sodium and phosphorus are classed as macrominerals and the level required per day by an animal can differ greatly depending on their physiological state. For example, a laying chicken making an eggshell a day needs a lot more calcium than a young chick and a lactating animal needs more calcium than a non-lactating animal to make milk. Growing animals also need the correct balance of macrominerals to support skeletal growth. If an animal is fed too much of a macromineral it can cause health issues. For example, feeding too much calcium to an animal that doesn’t require it can cause kidney damage. On the other hand, too little of a macromineral can also cause issues. For example, low calcium in a dairy cow diet causes milk fever. It is therefore important to stick to feeding recommendations and give an animal the correct feed for its current state and change feeds as they move from one stage to the next.

Micronutrient levels

Micronutrients include trace elements such as copper, selenium, iodine, zinc and manganese, as well as vitamins such as vitamins A, D and E. These nutrients need to be consumed in small quantities a day but can have a big impact on health. Just as with the macrominerals, the requirement for micronutrients varies with the species and physiological state. A good example of this is co pper requirements. Cattle require more copper per kilogram of body weight compared to sheep, so if a cattle feed with a high level of copper is fed to a sheep for an extended period, it can cause copper toxicity (this is the same with calf vs. lamb feed). Even within some species the requirements may be different. For example, lactating cow feed will often contain high rates of copper, which makes it inappropriate for calves. Some multi-feed options such as NRM MultiFeed Nuts have a safe level for a wider range of species. Always check the product label to ensure a feed is approved for use by your target animal.

Ruminant protein-containing feeds

Is it against the law in New Zealand to feed ruminant protein to ruminant animals (this includes cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and deer). This is due to the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as “Mad Cow Disease”. Ruminant protein can be included in some animal feeds such as dog and cat food, plus some pig and poultry feeds. Even feeds that do not contain ruminant protein in the formulation but are made in a feed mill that handles ruminant protein still cannot be fed to ruminants, due to the risk of contamination during manufacture. All products that fit into this category must be labelled on the front of the bag.

Small differences can make big differences, so be aware of this when making feed choices for your animals to ensure they are as happy and healthy as possible.

Contact your local Nutrition Specialist if you are considering feeding something that is not detailed on a product label.

Article supplied by Stacey Cosnett, Nutritionist.