Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Minerals and vitamins are vital to the good health of goats. You can feed proper protein, energy, and fat, but if the mineral and vitamin mix is wrong, your goats will not do well. Most of the mineral- and vitamin-related problems in goats result from deficiencies, but toxicity can occur too.

Although no single mineral can be singled out as more important than others, copper, zinc, selenium, and manganese levels are especially critical. The interaction of minerals is astoundingly complex. The most difficult task in raising goats is getting nutrition right, and vitamins and minerals are integral parts of proper nutrition. Most goat raisers (including me) don't know enough about nutrition to formulate our own feed ration. Do not make additions to already-formulated feed; you are messing up the nutritional balance that a trained goat nutritionist has put into his feed formula.

Selenium: Large parts of the United States have selenium-deficient soil. Selenium deficiency is widespread in most of the eastern coast of the U.S., into the Great Lakes area, and throughout the northwestern part of this country. Plants grown in these soils are selenium deficient; therefore they cannot provide adequate selenium to the goats that eat them.

Selenium deficiency, like Vitamin E deficiency, can cause white muscle disease (nutritional muscular dystrophy), causing the goat to have difficulty controlling its muscles. Newborns with weak rear legs may be selenium-deficient. Kids may be too weak to nurse their dams. Pneumonia can result from weakness in muscles that control breathing.

If you are raising goats on selenium-deficient soil, you must make sure that this mineral is added to processed feed. Many producers give BoSe injections to newborn kids, as well as to adult goats. BoSe is a vet prescription item. Contact your local county extension agent or your veterinarian for information on your particular area or google 'selenium levels United States' for data.

Zinc: Zinc is needed in the synthesis of proteins and DNA and in cell division. Excessive salivation, deformed hooves, stiff joints, chronic skin problems, abnormally small testicles, and poor libido (reduced interest in mating) are some of the signs.

Copper and Molybdenum: Copper in other than small amounts is toxic to sheep, but goats must have significant copper levels in their diet. Inadequate copper levels can cause loss of hair color, coarse hair that has hooked end tips, abortions, stillbirths, anemia, frequent bone fractures, poor appetite, weight loss, and decreased milk production.

Molybdenum and copper amounts must be balanced or health problems occur. More than three (3) parts per million (ppm) of molybdenum binds copper, creating copper deficiency.

Copper toxicity can occur by feeding too much copper. We are learning that goats need more copper than originally believed but no one knows precisely how much copper is adequate or safe, and this may vary from area to area. Make sure that the copper level in feed is correct for your goats by consulting a trained goat nutritionist knowledgeable about your area. Do not depend upon the advice of feed store owners. They are in the business of selling feed and most have almost zero knowledge of goat nutrition and health.

Iron: Unless worm infested, foraging goats generally don't experience iron deficiency. Certain onion-type plants, however, can cause anemia. Stomach worms, sucking lice, and blood loss are common causes of anemia in goats. Goats that are seriously ill with anemia may be supplemented with injectable iron (Ferrodex 100) or oral administration of Red Cell. An excess of iron can contribute to decreased fertility in goats.

Iodine: Goiters are the most visible sign of iodine deficiency. Newborns whose dams are iodine deficient can be born with goiters. Commercial feeds and minerals contain non-iodized salt (it mixes well), so it may be necessary to offer iodized salt on a free-choice basis. A quicker method of getting iodine into the goat is to paint liquid iodine on the hairless tailweb and to offer kelp (seaweed) free choice.

Calcium and Phosphorus: Calcium and phosphorus must be in proper balance or serious illnesses can occur. Female goats that have been bred at too young of an age can develop lameness and/or bowed legs if they are calcium deficient. Calcium is essential to bone formation and muscle contractions (including labor contractions). A calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of 2-1/2 to 1 is correct and helps prevent urinary calculi. Too much phosphorus in relation to calcium causes urinary calculi. An imbalance of calcium and phosphorus can result in birth defects. Urinary calculi is not caused by too much calcium but rather by too much phosphorus in relation to calcium. Plants fertilized with chicken litter are high in phosphorus, resulting in a calcium-to-phosphorus imbalance. Check with your hay producer to determine if chicken litter was used; if so, you will likely have to add calcium carbonate to your feed to get the calcium-to-phosphorus balance to the correct 2-1/2 to 1 ratio.

Manganese: Slow growth rates in kids (especially buck kids), reduced fertility and abortions in does, improperly formed legs, and difficulty in walking are general signs of manganese deficiency. Too much calcium interferes with manganese absorption.

Salt: If a goat lacks salt in its diet, it may lick the ground to get salt from the dirt. Offer salt as part of an appropriate loose mineral mix on a free-choice basis. Do not force-feed salt by mixing it with processed feed. Salt is often used as a feed limiter, as heavily salted rations cause goats to eat less. A pregnant doe who consumes too much salt may have udder problems -- edema (subcutaneous accumulation of fluids). Do not feed salt or mineral blocks to goats. Goats bite, damaging their teeth; cattle lick. Use loose minerals (salt is included) with goats.

Sulphur: Excessive salivation may be a sign of sulfur deficiency. A properly balanced loose mineral and vitamin mix is required. Do not directly supplement sulphur, because it can bind up iron and copper.

Potassium: Goats on forage usually get all the potassium they need. Penned animals need potassium added to their processed grain mix. Emaciation and muscle weakness are signs of severe potassium deficiency.

Magnesium: Goats deficient in magnesium have lowered urine and milk production and may become anorexic.

Vitamin A: Inadequate amounts of Vitamin A in a goat's diet can lead to thick nasal discharge, difficulty in seeing or blindness, respiratory diseases, susceptibility to parasites, scruffy hair coat, and diarrhea. Kids with coccidiosis need more Vitamin A because they have reduced intestinal absorption of nutrients. Adults are likely to be less fertile and more susceptible to diseases if they do not have adequate levels of this essential fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin A builds up in the body's fatty tissues, so it must be supplemented carefully to avoid toxicity.

B Vitamins: A sick goat must be supplemented with B vitamins, particularly Vitamin B 1 (thiamine). The B vitamins are water soluble, so they need to be replenished daily. One of many conditions that depletes the goat's body of B vitamins is diarrhea (which is a symptom of a problem and not an illness in itself). Goats whose rumens are not functioning properly or have had their feed regimen drastically changed should be supplemented with B vitamins, particularly B1 (thiamine).

One of the most common examples of Vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency is "goat polio" (polioencephalomalacia). This disease does not mimic polio symptoms found in humans. Thiamine must be given to counteract severe neurological problems. Thiamine-deficient goats display rigid bent necks that won't straighten and a loss of eye focus. This disease usually results from eating moldy hay, feed, or sileage; however, it occasionally occurs because the organism exists under certain environmental conditions and a susceptible goat picks it up. The symptoms mimic those of tetanus and dehydration. Because all B vitamins are water soluble, it is difficult to overdose them.

Vitamin B12, an injectable red liquid requiring a vet prescription, is essential in the treatment of anemia.

Vitamin D: Enlarged joints and bowed legs (rickets) are a result of Vitamin D deficiency. Penned goats must have Vitamin D added to their feed.

Vitamin E: Feeding sileage or old hay can produce Vitamin E deficiency and result in white muscle disease. The injectable prescription product BoSe contains both selenium and vitamin E and is often given to newborns in selenium-deficient areas. Vitamin A-D-E Gel is available for supplemental oral use.

Water: Yes, water. The goat's body is normally more than 60% water. Rumen contents must be about 70% water to function properly. Even a slight dip in water consumption can result in a goat with fever and off feed.


This list is not comprehensive. If you get nothing else from this article, understand that proper goat nutrition is very complex and not for amateurs.

For producers affected by Tall Fescue Toxicity, several companies around the USA make a fescue-balancer loose mineral. See my article on Tall Fescue Toxicity on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com

If mineral deficiencies are widespread in your herd, Mineral Max aka Multi Min is available. An injectable cobalt-blue colored liquid that must be obtained from a vet, Mineral Max/Multi Min contains zinc, manganese, selenium, and copper in chelated (timed-release) form. It is given to goats SQ (under the skin) usually one injection per year and in decreasing amounts as the goat ages. Give a Vitamin E capsule orally at the same time that you inject this prescription supplement Do not give BoSe and Mineral Max together.

If you live near a feed mill that formulates pelleted (do not feed textured) goat feed, please use their services and purchase their products once you determine that they make quality products. These firms employ livestock nutritionists who have knowledge of the nutritional needs of goats in the areas for which they manufacture their products. If such mills are non-existent in your area, contact your vet, county extension agent, or closest agricultural university for assistance. These folks should have knowledge about feed mixtures that the average producer does not possess. Find out what your area is deficient in and make sure that is added into your feed supply.

Do not attempt to formulate your own feed unless you are a trained goat nutritionist. If such expertise is not available in your area, locate and hire a goat nutritionist to formulate a feed ration for you. This service is not expensive but you may be required to buy four to six tons of feed, so contact your neighboring goat producers about working together on this purchase. There are computer programs into which the nutritionist can input information unique to your farm and your management techniques to develop a feed mix specifically for your needs. The health and well-being of your goats are depending upon your making wise decisions about their nutrition. Find a place to cut costs other than goat nutrition. You cannot starve a profit out of a goat. The best goat genetics cannot triumph over bad management and poor nutrition.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto,ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 6/6/15

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Important! Please Read This Notice!

All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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