Copper Deficiency in Goats : Parasite Resistance
Copper deficiency can occur in all kinds of goats, regardless of breed or gender. There is insufficient copper provided in grain, and even when supplemented with loose minerals, goats can still be lacking in this vital nutrient.
So what symptoms indicate deficiency? In adult goats, you can see that their hair becomes very long and bushy. It also begins to look sun bleached; rough, faded hair is a clear sign of a copper deficiency. If your goats are late shedding, then they may need some added copper to help give them a boost.
Another big sign of copper deficiency is if the goat’s tail tip is bald. If the hair separates at the end of the tail into a “fish tail” look, then copper is definitely needed.
Besides the bad hair, copper is extremely important for parasite resistance in goats. Copper deficient goats have been proven to be less able to fight off parasite infestation and more prone to ailments caused by parasitism. If your goats look scruffy and you can’t seem to get ahead of the parasites, then look towards copper supplementation as a key to their health.
Most goats in the North Country are naturally copper deficient, in my experience. Dietary copper is not available in the hay or pasture in large enough quantities for goats. Thus copper must be added to the diet. A good loose mineral blend made specifically for goats is a good start. It will help with all deficiencies, not just copper. Look for loose minerals that contain at least 1500ppm of copper. Mineral blocks, salt licks, and even the softer goat blocks are not ideal. They are too hard for a goat’s small mouth to get enough from and they either use salt or molasses as a binding agent to help form the block. Too much salt or molasses is not good in the diet. Loose goat minerals are all that is needed. Don’t have salt licks or other mineral sources out at the same time as your loose minerals because goats will tend to eat those tastier options and ignore the more healthy (and less tasty) loose minerals.
Even with constant access to a high copper mineral blend, goats still need added copper supplementation in the North Country. The easiest and safest way to supplement copper is to use Copasure goat boluses. These can be found online at Jeffer’s Livestock Supply. They are are gel capsules full of tiny copper rods. When the goat swallows the bolus, it will sit in their rumen and slowly dissolve. The copper rods are broken down over time and slowly absorbed into the blood stream. Be sure to use the smaller goat-sized Copasure and not the large cow-size. You can buy the cow-size but you will have to break the boluses apart and resize the dose for goats. It is recommend to give goats 1 gram of copper per 20 lbs of goat. Copasure comes in 2 gram or 4 gram sizes. Use whatever combination that will add up to 1 gram/20 lbs. Start bolusing your goats at 6 months old and repeat this dose every 6 months.
Some tips for bolusing:
Dose the goat with copper when their stomach is empty. Preferably 6 hours after feed removal. This will maximize the possibility of the bolus staying in the rumen where it can be absorbed and not being flushed out of the system.
Use a bolus or balling gun to shove the bolus down the goat’s throat. You want them to swallow each capsule without chewing it. Chewing the copper will not hurt the goat but it will increase the likelihood that the copper is not fully absorbed.
Follow the copper boluses with a dose of Vitamin A, D, E gel, or Selenium/Vitamin E gel or Probios gel. The gel will adhere to the capsule and cause it to settle in the bottom of the rumen for slow absorption.
Don’t feed the goat for at least 3 hours after dosing. Feeding them immediately will increase the chance that the boluses will be flushed out of the rumen by the food, thus not absorbed at all.