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How to determine goat minerals needed ?

 
pioneer
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Most of us goat owners do not find it easy to take a blood draw and send to a lab.  We end up using generalizations of what might be going on in our area.  But,  too much can be as bad as too little.  

Case in point, We lost a group of kids year before last 2 weeks early and I brought the Dam to UC Davis who after running various inconclusive tests mentioned her copper was well not "too high" but enough to ask us how we supplemented and told us to not copper bolus with out a blood test, which of course is too expensive to do.  

So we didn't  bolus and no one gotbpregnant.  It is less expensive to buy a new buck than to have our old buck( who is black) see a vet,  so now we have a new buck

Copper and selenium are the minerals likely lacking, but bought in hay could be from somewhere else better or worse.  

Of course I give the does free choice sweet lix milk magazine minerals ( for goats on alfalfa) and toss in branches

So how does a backyard goat owner get this right without testing ?
 
gardener
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I learned this method from my milk lady (who had cattle) and also my cousin (who raised goats).  My milk lady explained it best.  

After years of giving a combo mineral supplement to her animals, she was exposed to the idea of setting out bowls of each mineral individually.  She was surprised to discover that the cows ate specific ones in varying amounts, and ignored others.  They were still the same minerals as in the mineral combo, but the animals totally changed the ratios and left some out.  The animals knew what ratio they needed and when given the free choice they chose the best ratio on their own.  It was very interesting to see what they ate the most of, too. Her milk production went up and the cows health improved more.  This was a woman feeding all non-gmo, organic feed and grasses, too.  And sprouted grains.  Very well-cared for cows for raw milk production.

I mentioned this to my cousin in case she wanted to try it with her goats, and she already knew about it.

So there's an idea to consider that might make a change.  There are so many ways to experiment, eh?
 
pollinator
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With human nutrition, the official recommendations for amounts of some things are way below what is optimum. Even less is known about goat nutrition, and the recommendations can be less than ideal as well.

I first heard of there being an upper limit for copper from a local dairy goat association page that is often posting stuff about routine chemical drenches and other nasty stuff. My theory is that for people that use chemicals to get rid of worms, they are more scared about giving too many minerals than they are of having a goat that isn't resilient to parasites. Most conventional veterinarians would have this approach.

Before I'd heard of this upper limit, I fed more copper sulphate to my Toggenburgs than was recommended, but we had no issues at all with parasites or other health problems. I am in Australia though, where our soils are deficient in copper.

I wonder if there might have been something unrelated to minerals that caused the early kidding? I know someone who had a pregnant cow get into his potato patch and gobble up the tops, she calved very early that year. Maybe your goats ate something that also had this effect?

The free choice approach mentioned above is ideal. Adding dried seaweed as a free choice supplement is a really good idea too, as it supplies salt and iodine, along with many minerals in trace amounts in a natural form that you can DIY by getting seaweed from the beach and drying it at home. The iodine in seaweed helps goats to absorb the right amount of other minerals.

To find out what minerals your goats need, it's good to find out about local soil conditions. There's an online map I can use here that has overlays for agricultural crop suitability, and I can go into there and see the average pH for soil around here is around 5.4, I can then look at a chart that shows which minerals are then not getting into the vegetation the goats are eating, and supplement with this, along with the lime minerals that are missing in the soil.

I also just observe individual goats, and while I don't offer free choice minerals at the moment, I supplement their treat feed individually, and sometimes pour a bit of dolomite and copper sulphate into a mouth directly if I think that a goat needs the extra minerals.

Sulphur is essential for the absorption of selenium, and sometimes all that's needed to correct a selenium deficiency is to offer some yellow sulphur.

The colour and breed of the goat will impact which minerals she needs. My pure Saanens need the least amount of copper, my Toggenburg needs the most, and the Saanen/Nubian cross has the colouring of a Saanen, but seems to need more than they do.
 
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I'm surprised someone at UC Davis would tell you to get a blood test for copper before bolusing. The vet texts say that blood tests are not reliable for copper levels. A liver test is the only one that's really accurate. And if they said "not too high" then it was probably fine. I don't remember the exact numbers any longer, but there is a fairly large buffer between normal and toxic.

Are your conditions more likely to cause deficiency or toxicity? If you have sulfur or iron in your well water and feed alfalfa, then deficiency is most likely. The only case of toxicity I've heard of was a farm where the soil was deficient in molybdenum, which is incredibly rare. Here is more info on that:
https://thriftyhomesteader.com/avoiding-copper-toxicity-goats/

Years ago I read a published case study on a few goats that got copper toxicity, and they had been consuming a cattle mineral with 3000 ppm copper sulfate, which has a much smaller margin of safety than copper oxide, which can be safely given to sheep. How much copper is in your free choice loose mineral, and how much copper is in your goat feed?
 
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We are getting back into goats after years of being "dry" and are excited for this forum. We are going to try individual pans for minerals.
Happy hosting!
 
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Deborah, I read your article and I'd be interested in how you manage the calcium / copper balance. We are in an area with high molybdenum because of high rainfall and I feed a goat specific mineral. However, we need to feed quite high levels of calcium as some of my milkers are producing 2 gallons of milk per day which I expect could inhibit uptake of copper. We don't have any signs of copper deficiency but I would rather avoid a problem before it arises.
 
Kim Goodwin
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Here are two really interesting articles about goats, and zinc and copper deficiencies, plus calcium excesses.

Goats and Copper Deficiency

This lady did a poll of goat owners, copper deficiency and the symptoms their animals were having, and here is a quote regarding that:

To get an idea of how common some of these symptoms are, you can see the responses to the question about symptoms on the copper survey I conducted in 2016.

Of 570 respondents, 63 did not see any symptoms of copper deficiency in their goats.



Then there is a survey with results.

Also here is an interesting quote:

Primary copper deficiency occurs when a goat doesn’t consume enough copper. This is more likely if the owner is feeding plain grain rather than a commercial goat feed. However, not all goat feeds are created equal.

Years ago I spoke to a professor at Texas A&M who had done research on goat nutrition, and he suggested using a commercial goat feed with at least 35 ppm copper. Many brands have less than that, so you have to read the feed tag.

Goats should also have a free choice mixed mineral available, and it should have around 1500 ppm copper sulfate. Even though you provide as much copper as a goat needs, however, they can still wind up copper deficient. How?

Secondary copper deficiency means that a goat is consuming enough copper, but they are also consuming a large amount of a mineral that is a copper antagonist. That means that it binds with the copper, making it unavailable for the goat.

Sulfur, iron, molybdenum, and calcium are copper antagonists that are the most likely culprits. Sulfur, iron, and calcium can be found in well water. Sulfur makes the water stink like rotten eggs or a dirty dish rag. Iron turns sinks and bathtubs orange, and calcium leaves mineral deposits on fixtures.



This is so interesting to me. In humans, zinc is a chelator of copper, but I don't see it mentioned for goats. Fascinating.


Goats, Zinc Deficiency and Calcium Excess

And I found this quote very interesting:

Multi-Min is an injectable mineral that includes zinc, but it also includes copper, selenium, and manganese. If your goats tend to run low on copper and selenium, then using Multi-Min for a quick fix when you discover zinc deficiency may work as it did for my bucks. However, if your goats have never shown any signs of copper or selenium deficiency, an injection of Multi-Min could be fatal. I know two breeders who had multiple goats die from liver and kidney failure after injections of Multi-Min.

The vet sold me on the idea of Multi-Min because I would no longer have to do copper boluses or BoSe shots, and the bucks would have plenty of zinc. That sounded like a great plan. But I didn’t use Multi-Min very long. Three months after an injection I had a buck that died with a copper liver level at 14 ppm. (It should have been 25 to 150 ppm.)

A couple months later I was talking to a vet professor about my bucks, and he said, “Never supplement with a syringe.” Injectable minerals are great when you have an animal that’s sick and needs a supplement fast — such as my bucks that were not eating. But if you know you have a problem with chronic deficiency, you need to figure out how to get a supplement into them orally on a daily basis.




 
Deborah Niemann
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Katy Whitby-last wrote:Deborah, I read your article and I'd be interested in how you manage the calcium / copper balance. We are in an area with high molybdenum because of high rainfall and I feed a goat specific mineral. However, we need to feed quite high levels of calcium as some of my milkers are producing 2 gallons of milk per day which I expect could inhibit uptake of copper. We don't have any signs of copper deficiency but I would rather avoid a problem before it arises.



Just watch the goats. I understand a lot of does need a high calcium diet, so you just watch them, and if they start to show symptoms of copper deficiency, provide additional copper in the form of copper oxide. I prefer copper oxide because it has a much wider margin of safety than copper sulfate.
 
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