Symptoms of Mineral Deficiencies In Your Goats
When our goats kidded in the spring, little did we know the journey we were about to endure. We thought our herd was healthy. I had them tested for all the diseases and we were feeding them the best grain and hay.
Even with all of these measures, we had one doe in particular, Violet, who really went downhill. She was the first to kid, and while her birth was normal and fine, she did not take very well to milking and nursing her twin bucks. She dropped weight quickly and would not keep it on.
She was skin and bones, despite how much we fed her or wormed her. I was having nightmares about her dying and one time I had her on the milk stand and just burst into tears because of the stress of watching her fade away and thinking there was nothing I could do.
All of my searching led me to The Goat Spot and they helped me navigate this difficult time. They were a Godsend! Without them, I don’t know what would have happened.
I posted some pictures of her and immediately they knew she had mineral deficiencies. I kept minerals out for my goats free choice, but they rarely ate them. I figured if they needed them. they would eat them.
But that’s not necessarily the case, as I learned the hard way.
So I’d like to share what I learned about minerals here with you, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. It is a long road to correct mineral deficiencies, so if you can start off right, then you won’t have to go through what we went through.
Here’s the quick rundown on the main minerals that could cause problems in your herd. The main minerals your goats need are copper, selenium and zinc.
Copper Deficiency Symptoms
- failure to shed winter coat
- rough coat
- bleaching (see chalkboard)
- fish tail
Selenium Deficiency Symptoms
- curved tail
- poor growth in kids
- retained placenta
- walking on hocks
Zinc Deficiency Symptoms
- hair loss
- hoof rot
- flaky skin
- foaming saliva
Not knowing what to look for, or only assuming that it was due to pregnancy and milking, we had almost all of these symptoms among our herd, but weren’t aware we had problems. They are so subtle.
The rough coats could be explained from winter shedding or milking. I didn’t think much of the rough coats we had. I really didn’t even notice the discoloration or the fish tail, either. Maybe I don’t pay enough attention, but I was only watching the big things: weight loss, going off feed, milk production. The big trigger for me, was Violet and her weight loss.
In May I gave my entire herd a copper bolus. This is what we used.
Now, all we could do was wait…
In July, two of our goats were looking so much better! Violet had gained 5 pounds and her coat was shiny. The white hair on her legs was almost completely gone, as well.
Maple, who I wasn’t worried about at all before I knew what I was looking for, had a severe fish tail. In July, however, she still had the fish tail and some discoloration as well.
Daisy still had some discoloration and Holly was still rusty. Because of this, we bolused everyone again.
Here are some before and after pictures of Violet and Holly.
(Before is on the left and After is on the right.)
You can no longer see Violet’s spine and withers sticking out and her coat is more evened out in it’s coloring. It’s hard to tell from these pictures, but her coat is so shiny and the discoloration on her legs (circled) is gone.
This is Holly, showing how a black goat turns a rusty color due to a copper deficiency. Also notice her super shiny coat in the “after” picture on the right.
Like I mentioned, mineral deficiencies can be difficult to assess.
For instance, Daisy walks on her hocks on her back feet. When I first noticed it, she was about 6 months old. I Googled it, but nothing mentioned minerals, only trimming. So I kept her trimmed up but it didn’t help.
After a while, we figured it was a defect and wondered about culling her. We thought we would try to breed her first and see how she looked in milk and go from there.
Well, she ended up losing a kid at birth, who had low muscle tone. I finally had my answer—selenium deficiency. This mineral will cause both of these issues (feet and muscle tone) however it presented as a small foot problem for over a year with no pain, so we missed it.
To deal with our selenium issues, we injected our goats with Bose. Bose is a selenium supplement you can only get from your vet. There is an OTC one you can get. (Here’s the one we buy.) We mostly rely on the Bose.
Typically, you only need to give this once a year right before breeding, but since we had so many problems, we gave it to them in May. We also just gave them some more, as we are starting to breed now, in October.
We noticed Daisy’s feet were much better throughout the summer, although not completely fixed. I’m not sure what else to do for her and her feet.
Although, nobody else has any selenium deficiencies, we aren’t taking any chances with losing kids, so everyone gets a shot to be on the safe side.
Antagonists in the water
Furthering these problems, there are also antagonists to these minerals, meaning these compounds will latch onto the minerals and leech them out of the goat’s system. They are found in your water supply.
These elements are:
So even if we were giving them the minerals they needed, they may not have stayed in their system because when they drink their water, these antagonists could cause the minerals to be flushed out of their system. So we also had to deal with our water supply.
It was a long spring and summer for us.
I know we don’t have a sulfur problem, because we would smell it, but iron and calcium I am pretty sure is in there. (We have calcium deposits elsewhere. I also think it’s better to assume you have these in your water than to take the chance.)
But there’s good news with an easy fix!
It’s called a horse hydrator. The purpose of it, is for your horse to be able to have a good water supply even at shows or away from home. Sometimes horses won’t drink water from other places.
But it also keeps these antagonists out of the water. It’s a simple, easy filter that you attach to your hose and the water is filtered through the hydrator, coming out clean on the other end.
We’ve been using this all spring and summer and I’m sure it’s helping, as my herd looks fantastic right now! It’s a pretty simple fix and worth it in my opinion.
Now it’s October and my herd looks amazing!
All symptoms are gone, no fish tails, all are shiny, no discoloration—absolutely nothing is wrong right now. I am amazed at how much a few simple minerals turned our herd around. I didn’t even know to look for these symptoms, and while this was a hard lesson to learn, I am a better goat keeper because of it.
One word of caution: it’s as easy to overdose your goat as it is to have the deficiencies. Please do your research and be aware of overdosing your goats. The Goat Forum is a wealth of information and the people there are more than willing to help you!
I did go slow, starting in May and just now, in October, determining they are healthy again. It was an agonizing 2 months, while I waited between May and July to see how they were doing, but was very aware of overdosing. Please make sure you are also aware of this.
If you are having any problems with weight, dull coats or any of the above symptoms in your herd, start working on correcting their minerals. Even if you give free choice minerals, it’s not enough in some cases.
If you aren’t sure how to give your goats a copper bolus, please read my post on it. I go through step by step with different ideas on ways to get it into your goats without a fuss.