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An Epidemic: Mineral Deficiency in Goats

An Epidemic: Mineral Deficiency in Goats

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If you cruise the Craigslist goats for sale pictures or the various Facebook goat health groups around the United States, one common theme you will see in a lot of the pictures and descriptions of goat problems is mineral deficiency. Mineral deficiency is a widespread problem and I am calling it the single most dangerous epidemic goats are facing today.

 

The signs of mineral deficiency are faded hair color, loss of fur or patches of missing fur, balding tail tip, crooked legs, poor conformation, rough or flaky skin, rough or scruffy hair, poor weight gain or inability to maintain weight, low milk production, bloody or pink milk, loss of kids, abortion, other birthing problems, parasite problems, inability to fight common infections and parasites, and general poor health. Do keep in mind that most of these symptoms can be caused by other, more direct issues than mineral deficiency. If your goats are not as healthy as they should be or they are just plain sick, address the immediate causes first and then examine your goats’ nutritional needs and see if mineral deficiency may be adding to their health issues.

 

lucy scruffy1Left, is my goat Lucy in 2008 before mineral supplementation. Notice the scruffy fur.

 

Goats are browsers by nature which means they have evolved to eat a lot of different forage types throughout a large territory. They are more closely related to White-Tailed Deer in their eating habits than they are to other livestock, like cows and sheep. This preference for dietary variety has led goats to become very dependent on the different nutritional aspects of many species of forage.

 

The largest nutritional aspect that goats require to be healthy is mineral content. Goats need a lot more minerals and in a larger variety than most other livestock.  Grass pasture, hay, and most grain blends do not contain enough minerals specifically tailored to goat health. You will be hard pressed to maintain a healthy goat herd on grass, hay and grain alone.

 

I strongly urge every goat owner to provide their goat herd access to a loose mineral blend designed specifically for goats. “All stock” or non-goat minerals will not contain enough of the essential minerals that goats need. Stay away from mineral blocks or fortified salt licks. These are typically not formulated for goats and they are too hard for goats to get enough minerals from. Also mineral blocks use salt as a binding agent and are too salty to encourage enough to be eaten to satisfy mineral needs. Loose minerals allow your goats to eat as much as they feel they need. Put a pan or feeder tray of loose minerals in every goat pen or pasture. Be sure to refill the pan often to keep the minerals clean and fresh. Goats do not like stale minerals.

 

When choosing your loose mineral blend, be sure to think about what minerals are abundant in your area and what your area is especially deficient in. Your local extension office or agricultural department should be able to help you determine this. Also think about what minerals are present in your goats’ water source. If your water is very high in iron, you might want to pick a mineral blend which is low in iron so you don’t overdose your goats. Your veterinarian should also be able to help you decide what minerals your goats need. Blood tests and other diagnostics are available to help formulate the correct mineral supplementation to make your goats as healthy as possible. There are a lot of great loose goat mineral blends available and some are better for certain parts of the country than others.

 

In my area of the Northeast, I need to give my goats a mineral blend that is high in selenium and copper. I also have to supplement my goats individually with extra copper and selenium because my area is extremely deficient in these two essential minerals. Loose goat minerals may not be the only mineral supplementation you need to provide for your herd, but it is a great place to start!

 

lucy good1Here’s Lucy looking shiny and sleek in 2013 after proper mineral supplementation.

 

Rose has been raising goats near Vermontville, New York, for 10 years. She has raised dairy goats, meat goats, and fiber goats. Over the years, she has learned a lot of information and tips for raising happy and healthy goats. Rose loves to share the information she has learned to help goat owners and aspiring goat owners to take good care of their animals. Goats are intelligent, resourceful, funny, useful animals that have unique needs when compared to other farm livestock.
In 2011, Rose stared the Adirondack Goat Club to bring together goat owners and enthusiasts all over the area. The mission of the club is to create a network of people who can rely on each other for help with their goats, for the sharing of information and equipment, and for the sale and trade of quality animals.
Rose lives on her farm with her husband and 3 year-old daughter. Currently the animal count is up to three Alpine dairy goats, one Saanen dairy goat, two Boer meat goats, one Angora fiber goat, 28 chickens, one rabbit, one barn cat, and two dogs. The extra milk on the farm goes into goat milk soap that Rose sells locally.
Contact Rose Bartiss at rosesgoats@gmail.com or follow her blog at www.rosesgoats.blogspot.com. Her soap can be found on Facebook at Rose’s Goats.

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  1. by GregoryJones
    Comment made on: June 11 2014

    Two comments:
    1. I get a monthly newsletter from a vet school/ lab. Every one of the small ruminant section reports shows serious mineral deficiencies in their lab work for autopsies/ serious problems.

    2. The Rose pictures are not as helpful as they could/ should be. “Before” I see an unbrushed winter coat — “After” I see a summer/ show-trimmed coat. The seasonal/grooming differences mask the truly significant differences.



  2. by GregoryJones
    Comment made on: June 11 2014

    Correction — make that Lucy, not Rose pictures


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