Develop a sound foundation knowledge of animal anatomy and physiology as a basis to understanding the care and management of animals. This course is the starting point for working with animals in any situation. You will study - cells and tissues, the digestive system, the circulatory system, the urinary system, the nervous system, respiration, the reproductive system, muscles and meat, the skeleton, animal growth, development, and the endocrine system.

"The course teaches you the different systems within animals in terms of structure and function, cell and tissue structure, and also the differences between different categories of animals." Marius Erasmus - ACS Tutor, B. Science (Agriculture,) B. Science (Wildlife), Master of Science (Agriculture)

This course provide you with an understanding of the structure and function of the following:

  • Animal cells and tissues
  • Digestive system
  • Circulatory system
  • Urinary system
  • Respiratory system
  • Reproductive System
  • Skeletal Systems


An excellent start to a career in working with wild or domestic animals in places such as farms, veterinary surgeries, animal welfare agencies or elsewhere.



The eleven lessons in this unit are:
  1. Introduction, cells and tissues - Livestock classes, livestock products, interrelationship between crops and livestock, cells and tissues, special properties of cells, osmosis, nutrient waste. 
  2. The Digestive System - Digestive system, mouth, tongue, teeth, oesophagus, simple stomach, small intestine, large intestine, ruminant stomach, accessory organs of the digestive system, digestion, absorption and utilisation in the simple stomach, enzymes, breakdown by microorganisms, digestion, aborption and utilisation in the ruminant stomach, mechanical action, action of micro-organisms, utilisation of the end products of digestion, 
  3. The Circulatory System - Circulatory system, composition of blood, functions of blood, clotting mechanism, immunity, blood vessels, arteries, veins, capillaries, physiology of the circulatory system, rates of heart beats, spleen, lympathic system, circulatory networks.
  4. The Urinary System - Anatomy of the urinary system, kidneys, ureter, bladder, physiology of urinary system, excretion in different animals.
  5. The Nervous System - Central and peripheral nervous system, main parts of the nervous system, neurones, sensory neurones, motor neurones, central nervous system, the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nervous system, cranial nerves, spinal nerves, autonomic nervous system, reflex actions, endocrine system, structure and function of the ear, hearing, structure and function of the eye, the iris, structure and function of the nose.
  6. Respiration - Anatomy of respiration, trachea, bronchial tree, lungs, physiology of respiration, gaseous exchange, rate and depth of breathing.
  7. The Reproductive System - Anatomy of the male reproductive system, testes, accessory organs, penis, physiology of male reproductive system, hormone production, sperm production, erection, ejaculation, fertility problems in males, venereal diseases, other diseases, injury, physical immatury, emotional immaturity, nutrition, poor handling, anatomy of female reproductive system, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, physiology of the female reproductive system, ovulation, oestrus cycle, fertility problems, difficulties conceiving, venereal and other diseases, physical abnormalities, nutrition, inability to carry a foetus to full term, pregnancy and parturition, fertilisation, pregnancy, parturition,birth process, difficult births, structure of the mammary glands, secretion of milk, milk ejection, reproduction data for cows, sows and ewes. 
  8. Muscles and Meat - Muscles and meat, smooth muscle, striated voluntary muscle, cardiac muscle, structure of meat, dressing out percentage, composition of the beef animal, meat quality and tenderness, juiciness, flavour, cuts and joints of meat.
  9. The Skeleton - Bones, how bones are formed, anatomy of bones, fractures and fracture healing, five types of bone, joints of bone, the skeleton, dentition, the dental formula, cattle, dental formula of an ox and cow, eruption of permanent teeth, pigs.
  10. Animal Growth, Development and the Endocrine System - Growth and development, growth curve, prenatal growth, post-natal growth, fat, factors which affect the size of newborns, factors affecting post-natal growth, early maturing, compensatory growth, endocrine system, pituitary gland, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, adrenal bodies, pancreas, testes, ovaries, pineal body, mucous membrane of the stomach.
  11. Comparing Different Animals - Poultry, digestion, gullet, crop, proventriculus, gizzard, intestine, caecum, rectum, incubating eggs, natural incubation, symptoms of a broody hen, fish.


Duration: 100 hours (nominal duration)



Explain and describe:

  • physical components of mammals and other animals, including cells and tissues.
  • nature of animals in the primary production industry, with specific reference to your locality.
  • digestive system of more than one type of animal, in terms of both structure and function.
  • circulatory system of animals, in terms of both structure and function.
  • urinary system of animals, in terms of both structure and function.
  • nervous system of animals, in terms of both structure and function.
  • respiratory system of animals, in terms of both structure and function.
  • reproductive system of animals, including structure and function.
  • muscular system in animals, including the structure and function of muscles, and meat quality.
  • skeletal system of a typical mammal, in terms of both structure and function.
  • biological mechanisms underlying the growth and development of animals.
  • endocrine system of animals, in terms of both structure and function.
  • differences between different types of animals, in terms of both structure and function.



  • Identify parts of an animal cell on an unlabelled diagram.
  • Describe the cell functions for three different types of cells in animals.
  • Differentiate between the cellular composition, using illustrations, of animal tissues.
  • Explain the functions of four different animal tissue types.
  • Describe the processes of nutrient and waste exchange in animal cells.
  • Compare the digestive systems of different farm animals.
  • Describe the action of enzymes and micro-organisms in animal digestion.
  • Explain the role of accessory organs, including the liver and the pancreas.
  • Explain the components of blood in animals.
  • Explain the structure of an artery by illustrating and labelling a diagram of it's five layers.
  • Distinguish the characteristics of the various types of blood vessels in animals.
  • Explain the role of the lymphatic system in a specified farm animal.
  • Dissect an animal heart, and identify the parts of the heart on a photograph or the dissection.
  • Explain the role of the urinary system farm animals, including comments on urinary malfunction.
  • Describe the operation of the various parts of the urinary system, in a specified farm animal.
  • Describe the different components of the nervous systems of animals.
  • Explain the function of the autonomic nervous system in an animal.
  • Describe, using labelled illustrations and a report, the structure of the sensory organs.
  • Describe components of the respiratory system of animals.
  • Explain the means by which the respiratory system functions in animals.
  • Describe the process of gaseous exchange between the alveolus and capillaries.
  • Explain the means by which the rate of breathing is controlled in animals.
  • Describe the function of each of the components of the male reproductive system.
  • Explain the physiological processes in the male reproductive system.
  • Explain the different fertility problems occurring in a chosen male farm animal species.
  • Describe the function of components of the female reproductive system.
  • Explain various fertility problems in a chosen female farm animal species.
  • Explain two different 'difficult birth' conditions encountered in farm animals.
  • Label different skeletal parts on a series of unlabelled diagrams.
  • Describe the anatomy of a typical long bone in animals.
  • Explain how bone is formed in an animal.
  • Explain the operation of a freely moving skeletal joint, in an animal.
  • Differentiate, using illustrations, between types of bone fractures in farm animals, including simple breaks and compound fractures.
  • Explain the cellular processes of growth and development of specified animal species.
  • Describe prenatal and postnatal growth processes in a specified farm animal.
  • List the factors which influence the size of newborn animals.
  • List the components of the endocrine system in a chosen animal species.
  • Distinguish between different endocrine glands, for the specified animal, by location, appearance and function.
  • Describe five hormones found in farm animals, including for each their source sites of activity.
  • Distinguish between the photographs of 3 different muscle types, including smooth muscle cardiac muscle striated muscle.
  • Compare the function of the three types of muscle.
  • Explain the relationship between meat quality and muscle development.
  • Identify, on unlabelled illustrations, the cuts and joints of meat derived from sheep, cattle and pigs.
  • Prepare a table/chart showing characteristics that distinguish mammals from poultry, fish, crustaceans (e.g. yabbies) in terms of each of the main regulatory systems.



Mammalian farm livestock are divided into two broad classes, based on the type of digestive system they possess. They are either ruminant or non-ruminant. The digestive system of poultry differs considerably from that of both ruminant and non-ruminant mammals.

The ruminant “stomach” consists of three fore-stomachs (the rumen, reticulum, and omasum) and a “true” stomach, the abomasum. Physiologically, ruminants digest plant-based food by initially softening it within the animal's first stomach (the rumen) then regurgitating the semi-digested mass or “cud”, and chewing it again. This process is described as “ruminating”. Cattle, sheep, goats, and deer are ruminants, their natural food being grass.

Pigs, horses and rabbits are non-ruminants. They have a single stomach and are commonly referred to as “mono-gastric” animals. Pigs eat mainly cereals. Horses and rabbits eat both grass and cereals. Poultry eat mainly cereals but, as they have no teeth, they cannot chew. They also do not have a “stomach” as such. Gastric digestion is carried out in two separate organs: the proventriculus and the gizzard.

The role of ruminants in farming is to convert grass or pasture into human food such as meat or milk. Grass is not a human food, and were it not for the ruminant animals, the large areas of the world which are covered in grass would be useless to man. The ruminant converts this grass into human food, which is particularly valuable because it is very high in protein; and this is done reasonably quickly and efficiently.

Non-ruminant mammals and poultry are chiefly used in primary production to convert the starchy, high carbohydrate foods, such as cereals, into high protein food. A major problem with this aspect of food production is, that the cereals fed to pigs and poultry are themselves human foods, and the conversion of these foods into high protein meat and eggs is not a very efficient process.



Farm animals are found throughout the world, and most farms keep some form of animal. Their roles vary greatly; on some farms they play a major part in the farming pattern, producing most or all of the farm income, while on other farms they are just kept as a sideline or to provide meat and milk for the household. Farms animals can often perform work roles such as ploughing, carrying, or other draft work, in the case of larger animals, and weed/pest control in the case of smaller animals (e.g. poultry).

Throughout the world, animals of one sort or another are found on most farms. In areas of low and unreliable rainfall, animals are the only source of income for the farmer. In areas where there is enough rainfall, animals are integrated with crops. They can be put on parts of the farm that would not support crops and can use up crop residues. Animal manure can also be used to boost the soil fertility and so improve crop performances.

You should realise one very important point and that is: that profit margins from livestock are not as great as those from crops. Unless the primary producer operates efficiently, livestock farming can easily become unprofitable.

An efficient and successful livestock farmer is one who is in full control of his animals, knows what makes them profitable, and knows how to adapt to changing conditions and costs. He should know which animals are best suited to the conditions on his farm, and the most beneficial and economical ways of feeding them.

The farmer should be aware of the common diseases, the symptoms that tell him an animal is sick and, above all, be prepared to spend time looking after his animals. Most sickness can be successfully treated if it is detected early enough but, if treatment is neglected, the animal can easily die. These animals may also spread infection to the rest of the herd.

The farmer should know exactly how many animals are on the farm, where they are, what they are being fed on and who is in charge of them. As in all aspects of farming, attention to detail is the secret of success.

In the same way that a motor mechanic must have a good working knowledge of engines, so the livestock farmer must have a good idea of the internal workings of his animals. Also, sound understanding of the structure and function of all body systems is very important.

This course provides a thorough introduction to the anatomy and physiology of farm animals:

  • Structure (anatomy) deals with the different parts of the animal body, such as; cells, tissues, bone, and muscle.
  • Function (physiology) covers the different systems that are at work in animal body, such as; digestive, loco motor, urinary, and reproductive systems.

Choose to study with an ACS accredited school, college or institution in order to maximize career opportunities, employment awareness and job success.    



Let us tell you about this industry and help you
make the right decisions about moving forward


Just go to the top of this page for pricing and enrolment options