General Goat Care
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained vets! We have gathered this information that we have learned throughout our experiences and reading and education but always recommend you speak to a vet who understands goats before making final assessments of your herd.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Mineral deficiencies are the common cause of many illnesses and even death in goats. It can be scary when you are first learning how to handle assessing for these problems. It's best to educate yourself BEFORE an issue arises, so you will be prepared and will notice important changes.
This list NOT an all inclusive list, but is a good, basic start to any new goat owner.
Using a feed that is specifically designed for goats is important. Although feed/grain is not necessarily needed for many goats, there are situations when it is helpful such as for does in milk, meat goats (which we do not have experience with) and in-tact bucks used for breeding. Talk to seasoned breeders before deciding on a feeding program that is right for you. Goat feed is specially formulated to provide the necessary minerals to goats. But free-choice mineral which is high in copper, is still necessary.
COPPER - Hair loss on tip of tail (commonly called 'fish tail'), blindness, crooked legs, swayback, loss of hair color (black turns copper, tan goat may turn white, etc.), infertility, GI issues, failure to shed winter coat, poor immune system. These are a few of the early signs of lack of copper. It is important to note that many other minerals can block the absorption of copper. We have well water that has high levels of sulfur, calcium and iron, all of which block absorption of copper. We try to use rain water when possible and watch for signs of copper deficiency. We increase copper as needed through copper bolus or providing Replamin Gel Plus, which contains high amounts of copper as well as other minerals.
B VITAMINS - Parasites in the gut can remove certain B vitamins, and may need to be supplemented. We keep B vitamins on hand and give to goats who seem to be showing signs of any stress, or after kidding.
ZINC - Zinc is found in nearly every tissue in the animals body in particular the skin and hair, which is why any skin condition or hair loss immediately makes us think of a zinc deficiency (if mites or injury are ruled out). Zinc accumulates in the bone, unlike other trace elements which tend to be held in the liver. Most animals are tolerant of high doses of zinc and zinc toxicity is rare. So we do not worry about too much zinc when we are treating a skin issue or hair loss. However, large amounts of zinc can reduce feed consumption and may induce copper deficiency so we only use zinc supplements temporarily for treating skin and hair issues.
SELENIUM - Weigh loss, death, birthing trouble, kids who are weak, premature kids are a few of the signs that come with selenium deficiency. CAUTION: Extreme care should be taken if supplementing the diet with selenium because it is extremely toxic and the margin between required does and toxic amount is fairly small. Signs of selenium toxicity include stiff joints, loss of hair from tail, hoof deformities and even poisoning which can cause sudden death. We use selenium and Vit E gel mixed for goats (found at Jeffers Pet online) and never use it more than 1x per month. We use this only on our pregnant does to ensure they are not low. You may need to test your soil to learn if you have high or low selenium on your pastures.
determining copper deficiency/toxicity can be very confusing. However...
If copper nutrition was as simple as determining the copper levels in the base diet and adding a highly available copper source/supplementation, copper deficiency would not be a problem. However, because copper absorption and metabolism can be affected by molybdenum, sulfur, calcium, zinc, iron, manganese, cobalt, lead, cadmium, and selenium, deciding how much supplemental copper is required is not always easy. excerpted from: https://web.archive.org/web/20181228135733/http://www.saanendoah.com/copper1.html
If copper deficiency is suspected, you may want to get mineral tests on your feed, water and other supplements.
The earliest signs of copper deficiency are a faded coat, fish tail (balding tail tip), and losing hair on the face, especially around the eyes or the bridge of the nose, coat will be coarse/rough/brittle and have slight hooked tips (looks singed/burned on tips). A black goat turns a rusty color; red goats turn gold; gold goats turn cream; and cream goats turn white. BUT continue reading!!!