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Assessing Mineral Needs in Goats

 
Thekla McDaniels
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If there is a thread on this already, just beam me to it. I searched but did not find.

I am at a loss how to assess mineral levels in my 4 dairy goats.

Here is my situation. I use rotational grazing with my 4 does. The pasture is not all the way developed yet, but progress is being made. I've only had goats for less than three years. I understand that they have specific mineral needs.

Deborah Niemann's Raising Goats Naturally has been very helpful, in fact I am going to write a 9 or 10 acorn review soon as I organize myself into it.

Pat Coleby's Natural Goat Care is also an excellent reference, but the mineral depletion she describes in her goat keeping in Australia is not necessarily equal to the mineral status of my soil. The local ag extension guy says we have"young" soil, not yet depleted, but how do I know?

Steve Solomon's The intelligent Gardener describes a system for assessment and remineralization of the soil. His system is based on tests and targets that differ from the generic recommendations of agribusiness and most extension agents. He gives particular consideration to alkaline soils (which I have). I had the tests he recommended, and I do have less copper than optimum, but usually copper comes as copper sulfate, and I have too much sulfur, so it is a puzzle.

Further, though most of the valley considers there to be a selenium deficiency in the region's soils, I do not have the standard soil for the region, and my irrigation water from the Gunnison River while most of the valley uses the Colorado, runs through a region that has major selenium, so it is hard for me to believe there is a selenium deficiency at my place.

Niemann and Coleby and many others describe the effects of copper deficiency in goats, it disrupts their reproductive cycle and their coats (important for various reasons), among other things.

I dosed copper sulfate with dolomite and do see some improvement, but I would like those girls to bloom! I looked at getting COWP, but the fine print says it's not very bioavailable. Elsewhere I read that selenium levels affects the animal's ability to absorb copper, so a goat can have a copper deficiency when there is plenty of copper if the selenium is wrong. Cobalt is also a variable.

I don't know how to assess MY goats needs for minerals.

Currently, the two doelings I kept from this spring's kids have lush coats, lots of undercoat and the ends of their tails are great plumes. Their heats were easy to detect. Of the remaining two, the three year old has minor "fish tail", a shining coat with lots of underfur. Her heat was easy to detect. She only gives about a third as much milk as my 4th goat.

In my fourth goat, who is older (~ 6 or 7) who gives almost two gallons a day at peak, and is still giving 3 quarts a day, her coat is rougher, she has the fish tail, and she did not come in to heat that I could detect (got blood test confirmation of pregnancy in the other three).

I treated them all for internal and external parasites with DE, and really would like to get them all the minerals they need.

My concerns also include the knowledge that in humans at least, and therefore possibly other mammals, an oversupply of iron cannot be detected by blood tests as the body stores the iron somewhere, and it is possible to have iron toxicity, which developed despite blood levels being normal. Niemannn has described instances where she requested liver tissue be tested on her goats that died, in order to confirm her suspicions and further her knowledge of goat health and goat demise. I don't want to wait for a goat to die, and liver biopsy seems pretty drastic and likely very expensive.

So, there you have all my confusion factors. I don't know how to assess the individual goats' needs for minerals, and don't want to just dose them all on everything because toxicities can be as bad or worse than deficiencies. There is added expense there as well as endangering the goats through toxicities and just generally messing with the microflora of their miraculous rumens.

So how do all of you work the puzzle of what minerals when for your goats?

Thanks so much!
 
patrick canidae
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A variety of pasture forage and browse will provide a great variety of vitamins and minerals. The biggest tell for deficiencies of dairy animals is at and immediately following birthing. Milk fever and grass tetany being the common terms for hypo-calcemia and hypo-magnesia. If you haven't experienced milk fever, grass tetany, uterine prolapse, retained placentas, etc. you are probably doing fine in the macro-element world. Like wise very low selenium or vitamin E would be presenting with sterility and white muscle disease and general depression of the immune system leading to a host of illnesses.

You must remember, our large scale confinement dairies rely on corn, corn silage, corn distillers, corn gluten, and then alfalfa and soy bean meal. All of this stored in massive quantities for long periods of times in less than optimal conditions like open face bunker silos. Between oxidation, leaching of nutrients in storage and the very limited variety of major feed ingredients, they have a much higher demand for inclusion of additional vitamin and mineral packs.

If you aren't doing fecal egg counts, broad spectrum worming doesn't do much. You can't tell if you had a worm problem in the first place. And you can't judge if the type and quantity of anthelmintic was an effective dose for kind of quantity of parasites your goats may or may not have had.

Your high producing doe is probably inappropriate for a permaculture/pasture only scenario. If she weighs 150-170 pounds and pumps out 2 gallons + a day, she is steadily producing 10-11% of her bodyweight in milk a day. She isn't cycling for the same reason 1600 lb Holsteins pumping out 150 pounds of milk a day don't cycle and have poor reproductive performance. She can't consume enough calories to support massive milk output, maintain body condition and "bloom" that you alluded to, and quality nutrition for developing egg follicles. Lady cross country and marathon runners tend not to menstruate because of this same phenomenon as they run off all the calories they need to form biological components, including sex hormones that are built up from chains of fatty acids and sterols that just aren't available anymore. This lady needs massive mega-Cal's from high energy sources like corn, cereal grains, quality alfalfa haylage, etc. She is short on mega-cals and the high density TDN feed ingredients for her output. We refer to this as "negative energy balance" in the feed industry.

Successful pasture dairy operators shoot for smaller framed, lower milk producing animals that can consume adequate MCal's from forage, get pregnant, and stay healthy. Selling off high producer animals to people who want to feed lots of grains and silages will be a wise move to any who want self-sustaining dairy animals. Trying to sustain high milk output is easy, but shifts into confinement dairying with high calorie, high quality, high management, high outside input feed stuffs. Rather antithetical to most of the goals of the permies crowd.

If you want an overall guideline for minerals, you would need to collect accurate samples of your forages and send into any dairy forage/feed lab, calculate the proportions in which they are consumed, build a model of nutrient intake, and then could use any of the modern dairy software that builds off of NRCS suggestions for dairy cattle. It is far simpler to provide a variety of forages, keep the goats full of them, include some browse, and free choice white salt or possibly a trace mineral block, and just relax. You do have young soils. The parent material is standing behind you in those huge mineral blocks we call mountains. Trees, saplings, brush and deep rooted forbs are mining them up for you daily.

By the way, mouth your old gal. She may be going broken mouth any year now, and definitely won't be able to eat enough when that happens.

This stuff is supposed to be a fun way to provide for you and your family, not an anxiety inducing type-A quest of information that leads to heart attacks and brain bleed!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Patrick, I love your perspective, and thanks so much for a thorough answer!

About the young soils though, my place is beneath 1000 foot high sandstone cliffs, much of the soil is sand from that formation. Does it count as "young" if it was rocks which became very fine primarily quartz sand which was compressed back in to sandstone, with enough iron to stain it red, and I don't know what else. There is a very little clay in the soil, and one tiny "ridge" of a white colored clay, maybe bentonite.

My older doe, the one in question is actually showing some improvement, more fat between the ribs, sleeker smoother coat, with some undercoat coming on. She is definitely bloomier than when I got her a year ago. I will check her mouth. I don't know how long a doe can have a productive life, but I had been thinking that if she doesn't cycle this fall, or cycle in an obvious enough way for me to detect it, that she could benefit by a year of R&R. I would like to have another doeling out of her, if possible, but I'll have plenty of milk next season if all goes well with the other three. I have bred to bucks from another pastured goat dairy who feed even fewer concentrates than I do, so I'm hoping that her doeling from this year will do well on pasture, maybe not be as big a producer as her mother, but I don't really need her to make that much milk.

So, for now, perhaps I should double the older doe's ration of sunflower seeds at milking time, and make sure when I am handing out peanuts she gets twice as many as the others.

I'm planning to quit milking by the end of the week/month/year . I am wanting to get just one more 5 # wheel of manchego type cheese into the aging room before I quit.

Thanks again for your help.
 
Katy Whitby-last
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You could get your vet to run some blood samples to check.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I suggest a different approach, the goats will asses themselves, just plant plants that accumulate the right minerals that are also edible to them and let them do what they are born with the instincts to do. If they get low on copper they will seek out white oaks, if they need iron you will see them seek out tap rooted weeds....etc.

As long as you either have these in their pasture, or take them out like I do, then they can seek out the things they need on their own, it is only when we take their freedom away that they cannot do this.
 
Katy Whitby-last
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The minerals need to be present in order for the plants to take them up so that won't work if they aren't present in the soil.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Thanks for the input, Chadwick and Katy.

As for minerals in the soil, with a robust soil food web, they're (theoretically) all available. I am supporting the development of that community of microorganisms as quickly as I can, but there are some puzzles involved. The food web depends on having green plants above ground actively feeding them the products of photosynthesis, and the growth of the photosynthesizers depends on the presence of, the activity of a complete, intact, functioning soil community. I inoculate and plant and reinoculate and re plant, and sample and look at what I've got under the microscope. I culture protozoans, mycelial fiber, aerobic microbes and add them. I really celebrate when I see I have desired species of nematodes, and so on. It is getting better. I started with fine sand a little clay less than 1% organics and alkali. (It did not even support worms or much of a community of bacteria)

As quickly as I can, I am getting to as diverse a set of pasture and browse as possible.

It is all on its way. It is an intricate dance, and I am enjoying it. In this undertaking, I feel I am dancing to the music of the cosmos, as it is she who created the conditions I am dancing with.

In the meantime, being new to keeping goats, I want to be sure the animals are healthy. I don't want to marginalize their health, or their longevity by my ignorance and/or providing an inadequate set of dietary choices for them. I don't want to lose sight of their needs, in my fascination for the soil food web.

The diverse pasture is the goal, where the creatures can do as Chadwick describes.

Because our human body/physiology can store minerals out of the bloodstream, a blood test might not provide information about their current needs, or the availability of those minerals.

I am aware I may be making this more complicated than it has to be, but just the same, if I am going to spend money on tests or mineral supplements I want to be aimed the appropriate direction. And I need a better understanding than I currently have of the whole complex issue. When I get attain that understanding, I'll be happy to let the system take care of itself. In my desire to speed the development of the soil (the reason for the goats), I am putting a process into fast forward that usually takes centuries, or in this region even in centuries has not occurred. It is momentum in the wrong direction that causes a train wreck. In train wreck mode, it is the goats who will bear the greatest burden, their lives are at risk, where it is only my time, ego and financial investment at risk. And I just would not feel at peace with myself if I had not done the best I could., which to me includes asking for others' input and perspective.


Unfortunately, as we who utilize permaculture principles to guide us have acknowledged in that choice, mainstream agricultural and veterinary practices and recommendations, (and modern medicine as well) are not well founded in workable, rational, humane or sustainable values or education. At present they are primarily the spokes people for the pharmaceutical / pesticide agribusiness model. For now, it is the best they can do. In my secret heart of hearts I hold the hope that we permaculturists advocating for sustainable practices will have an impact on those professions.
 
Darin Colville
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Hey Thekla, Nancy Coon down in the rimrock of west central NM makes a mix of Azomite, DE, and kelp. She has amazing free range Alpines. This also serves as a vehicle for her natural wormers, garlic and wormwood. Check out Coonridge Dairy on the google thing. I've spent a lot of time down there, super healthy goats, AMAZING cheese. During a heavy Pinon pine nut year the milk is almost like chevre right out of the teat.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi Darin,

Wow! I have met the other half of the Coonridge Cheese operation at the Carbondale Fair, one of many places he takes their cheese. I'll contact them.

I've got DE, and kelp, but doubt they would eat it without some molasses on it though. Maybe if I mixed it in all peanut peanut butter, they love peanuts.

I think the local hydroponics store has azomite. I might have bought some once for my soil, but the goats could eat it on its way to the soil.

I just read the wikipedia entry on azomite. It says W A Price resources recommend it for humans (USDA and FDA do not).

Thanks for the suggestion!
 
Katy Whitby-last
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I'm not sure about the DE but mine happily eat kelp. They have it feee choice and will go through phases when they eat it a lot.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I never thought of putting the kelp out free choice. I just know they refuse it from my hand, or in the milk stand trough.
 
patrick canidae
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Did you mouth the old gal yet? I'm curious if she has all her incisors and how her molars look! Per our first correspondence up top, if you give here a year off, you are much more likely to get metabolic disorders. Fat dry goats can get pregnancy toxemia or ketosis rather easily, and milk fever rates increase as the parathyroid hasn't had to demand any calcium removal from the bones in a long time and it gets rather lazy.

Don't let everyone freak you out. Sounds like you are having a grand time. I spent a considerable number of years as a nutrition consultant to both grazing and large scale confinement dairies. Without analysis, spread sheets, etc., the simple tests are still production, reproduction, metabolic disorder and disease rates. If your production and reproduction are good, and your incidence of disease and disorder are low, it's a good indicator that all is well.
Even when in the controlled confines of a commercial dairy the joke is there are 3 rations. The one we formulate on paper based on the feed you have, the ration the employees responsible for feeding mixes and delivers, and the one the cows or goats eat after they sort through the bunk as much as they can according to their preference. It's all a game of estimates, assumptions, and evaluation on the fly.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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HI Patrick, I did not mouth her yet, it is really cold and I have had other tasks. I think I'll take a look in the morning before I go to work. My sense is that she has fine looking incisors, (I see them when I feed them peanuts) and doubt she has problems with her molars. She is an avid eater and I think she is skinnier than the other milker because she gives more milk and as you pointed out, is not really metabolically "right" for the pasture set up. That kind of production is for concentrates and shows.

I am really glad you mentioned the thing about metabolic disorders in dry goats. I never would have guessed THAT!!! As is clear by my thought to let her rest a year. I guess if she won't cycle, it would be better to milk through, but it isn't too late for her to come into heat. My best local goat mentor keeps saying her does are not coming in to heat either ( she has lots of experience, lots of years and lots of milkers), and her speculation is that we are going to have a hard winter and late spring and the girls are holding back.

I wonder, if am able to breed my older doe, and she kids later in the spring, and then I dry her up in early fall, will that bring on metabolic problems?

I know you mentioned the idea that she is not really suited to pastured dairying, and I agree, further her udder does not have the best attachment, so she is not a gorgeous show girl, but I am reluctant to sell her because I am at least her third owner, and it seems hard on an animal, especially a herd animal, to have to leave her friends and all that's familiar just for my convenience. I am fond of her, as are her goat friends. Though we would all adjust, will all adjust if I can find her a better home if I can keep her healthy and she'll throw me a few more nice doelings, a few more seasons of cheese, then I don't need a lot more from her.

I'll post about her mouth in the morning.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hey Patrick, I checked her mouth this morning, full row of healthy strong straight incisors, with good occlusion to the upper toothless gum, and sharp molars. Harder to look at the molars, as she was not wild about holding her mouth open long enough for me to see what I needed to see. Finally I ran my finger along her lower gum line, felt the sharp upper ones, both sides. They seem to be straight, the sharp edge of the uppers fitting nicely just outside the row of lowers.

So I see that checking the teeth is yet another way to assess the overall health of the goat. I know a lot more about horse teeth and the things that can make eating hard for them. People also can have problems that arise out of issues with the teeth, and I have a very old dog whose teeth have been horrible for years, her breed predisposed to poor teeth, one more thing to keep in mind for the goats.

So, generalizing from what I know about the health of other animals will carry over sometimes, but not always, depending on the particular issue, is my conclusion.

Thanks
Thekla
 
Deborah Niemann
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As you've already figured out, it doesn't really sound like your goats have a problem with copper, so this is simply for future reference ...

A liver biopsy only costs about $25, if you remove the liver yourself and send it directly to the lab. The first time I did it, it was out of necessity because I couldn't find a vet to do it for me, but I found the liver and cut it out with the help of my then-teenage daughter. If you ever butcher goats, you can use one of those livers, so you aren't necessarily waiting for a goat to die.

I don't know why some people say that copper oxide wire particles (COWP) are not "well absorbed." They dissolve gradually over the course of a month, which is MUCH safer than copper sulfate. I have met several people online who've killed goats by over-dosing them accidentally with copper sulfate. I know the COWP works because of the liver biopsies we've done, and I've never met anyone or seen anything published about over-dosing with COWP. I'm sure it can be done. It's just not easy to do. I did read a published study about goats dying from copper toxicity when given cattle minerals that contained 3000 ppm copper sulfate. It's ironic that I initially started using COWP because I couldn't find a vet to give me prescription copper, but then a few years later when a vet did give me Multi-Min, I wound up losing a buck to copper deficiency three months after a Multi-Min injection. Every liver I've ever tested from a goat that was given COWP within the last three months has had a mid-level normal range of copper.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi Deborah,

Thanks for the ideas. I may butcher a buckling in the coming fall, and I could submit a liver sample. (What lab runs liver biopsies?) Though there are individual differences, the mineral status of an animal whose mother had eaten what's here while pregnant, then the young animal drank her milk then ate the feed his whole life would give me a decent idea what minerals are available in the feed I provide.

Why do you suppose they make the copper into very expensive oxide wire particles? Have you ever thought about cutting large gauge copper wire into 1/2 inch pieces and using a torch to make the corners rounded, giving the goats that? I know cattle often carry metal in their rumens. If the wire was pure copper wouldn't it provide elemental copper to the goats?

The COWP capsules are expensive but I guess I 'll order some for now, because the one doe certainly lacks hair at the tip of her tail.

By the way, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your book. It is just what I need. Practical knowledge guided by experience, and the similar values: as few pharmaceuticals as possible, as much fresh green feed as possible, and the idea that goats are hardy animals and if we give them the opportunity, they'll take very good care of themselves, and those individuals not suited to my operation can move along to the next good opportunity.

Again thanks for the perspective on the liver biopsy and thanks for writing such a great book.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Do not use wire for copper, it will injure and poison the animal.

Copper oxide is chemically different from copper wire,

first copper wire is an alloy with lead and other metals like zinc and nickel for strength

Copper oxide is like medicine, it starts as a pure form of copper and is super heated in an oxygen rich specialty furnace, they shape it like wires to increase surface area. If they could get oxidation of the copper in a larger form faster they would this is just the easiest shape to make by machine that also oxidizes in a fast cost effective way.

I bolus mine, but I bolus far less when I feed eastern hemlock trees, your area will have a pine type species that is an accumulator too, find it and it will save you money, beware of ponderosa pine it can cause abortion.

Please do not feed goats wire, please, I have heard this asked before and I alway want to make it quite clear that you can injure and kill your goat feeding wire.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Onyx loose minerals are supposed to be superb, if you can't get those tractor supply has manna pro ( picture)

Mineral quality and absorbability

Best chelates or chelated minerals, most easily digested and used by the body

Oxides, ok often digest slowly and are absorbed well, because of slow digestion act as slow release over time

Sulfates, digest well, but are dangerous as dosage is very low and risk of overdose is higher than the others, not recommended to use copper sulfate due to copper levels spiking and causing sickness

Sulfates of other minerals may be less harmful but should be purchased as animal minerals not off label minerals

A cobalt mineral salt lick or cobalt bolus will help a goat retain other minerals, after adding a cobalt block my minerals last four times longer, and I bolus much less often. Selenium is another to learn about and if your land is deficient
image.jpeg
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Thekla McDaniels
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OK, no copper, sheet or wire, no matter how pure the copper.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Yes please! Just so you know I asked the same question when I started out, so I'm not judging by any means but I wanted to make sure that you know that it's a bad idea. Cows get hardware disease from metal and their rumen is much thicker and tougher, goats are softer. It's the difference between you taking an iron supplement and eating a nail, it really is.

I also tried dumping the bolus contents into the feed for each of them, believe it or not they ate all the feed and there was a pile of copper oxide at the bottom of each feeder, I couldn't believe it!haha
 
Thekla McDaniels
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My friend was over yesterday and took a look at one of my goats and said she needed copper based on how her hair was very rough. When you look, each individual guard hair seems to have a hook or bend right at the tip. This doe has plenty of hair at the end of her tail, so I thought surely she did not have "fish tail".

I have some COWP boluses, the 12.5 gram size bolus for calves 150 pounds or more. I wonder how much is a safe dose for goats. My girls are 2 adult full size ( alpine and alpine cross) does, and two yearlings, so, smaller in every way, one is alpine nubian cross and the other nubian nigerian cross (50-50). This jar of Copasure was expensive, so I don't want them to be able to waste it. Based on Chadwicks experience of finding the copper particles at the bottom of the trough makes me reluctant to just dump the contents of the bolus in their trough.

If I know how much is safe to give them, I could mix it in with kelp and sunflower seeds and a little molasses to make it stick to the sunflower seeds.

 
Thekla McDaniels
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And here is some information on my question about dosage above, that I found at this website
http://goatspots.com/articles/copper/

How Much Copper Do I Give?
Based on our veterinarian’s recommendation we have been using the following dosages for COWP orally with good success:
0.5 gram – goats 30lbs and under
1 – 2 grams – goats 31lbs – 50lbs

1.5 – 3 grams – goats 51lbs – 90lbs

2 – 4 grams – goats over 90lbs
The higher end of the dosage is used more for help with parasite control, while the lower end of the dosage is typically used as a starter for signs of copper deficiency. Based on the USDA info found here these dosages are well within the safe range and as with all mineral supplement the smallest portion needed should be given first before giving a higher dosage.

How Often Should I Give Copper?
Our veterinarian recommends giving copper every 3-4 months for the best results with parasite resistance.  You may notice the packaging on the UltraCruz copper says a single dose typically lasts 8 months – 1 year.  Based on the x-rays we’ve had taken of a goat dosaged with COWP I highly doubt there would be much, if any, copper remaining after 6 months.  Be sure to discuss copper supplement with your vet if you have any questions or concerns.

They also have some suggestions about how to get the goats to consume the COWP. (in half a marshmallow)

Nieman, in her book Natural Goat Care says she just top dresses some grain or other delectable goat snack.

My goats love salted in the shell peanuts. I may try measuring out the dose, mixing it with some peanut butter and putting it inside a peanut shell.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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peanut butter was acceptable to the girls. I use the only peanuts stuff and got the stuff from the bottom of the jar with most of the oil out of it. At first I used too much peanut butter and had to put it in several shells. I got smarter as I went along.

I don't know that this would work with foul tasting compounds, but copper oxide probably doesn't have much flavor and is in those tiny little bits.
 
Maria Brown
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A good lab for liver analysis is Michigan State Univ's diagnostics: https://animalhealth.msu.edu/sections/nutrition/faq.php

They require only a small piece of the liver, not the whole thing (size of a walnut is fine) and it does not have to be overnighted. Around $30 fee, as I remember.

I send the sample in a small, tight-lidded, labeled container (like an empty vitamin bottle), along with a frozen ice pack and ship via Priority Mail. They will email the results within a few days.

 
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