Different species of animals have very different nutritional needs. This is why there are so many types of feed at local feed mills and farm stores. There are even different nutritional needs between animals of the same species being used for different purposes. For example, broiler chickens need more protein and less calcium than egg laying chickens. Dairy cattle need more calcium than beef cattle. Pregnant and lactating animals need more protein and fat than others. One of the big differences between animals housed together on our farm is that goats need copper, and sheep can easily experience copper toxicity.
First thing’s first, how do you determine if you need to supplement copper? Generally speaking, goats will always need some source of copper. Some of the symptoms goats will show when they are copper deficient are as follows:
- Faded coat
- Fish Tail (the tip of the tail loses hair)
- Hair loss on the face
- Fertility issues, both in males and females
- Difficulty during pregnancy and labor
- Increased susceptibility to parasites
On farms that raise only goats, or keep their goats separate from other copper sensitive animals, the animal caretakers will often give a them a free-choice mineral supplement that contains copper. This is the easiest way of supplementing copper, and can be sufficient for many animals. It is important to remember that these mineral mixes provide a good baseline for the animals, but will not fix a severe deficiency. If you are lucky enough to have a local feed mill, they might be able to custom mix minerals for you.
Another easy way to provide copper is through goat-specific feed. It has the right balance of minerals and vitamins to raise healthy goats. We don’t feed our animals grain regularly, and again we house our goats with our sheep, so we cannot offer the feed to everyone. This also wouldn’t work for people who are raising their goats in a grass fed situation.
Because we have our sheep and goats together, we cannot give them a feed or mineral mix with copper in it. So we go the route of feeding them copper boluses. Our bolus of choice is UltraCruz. They are available in 2g and 4g doses. The larger one is for adults, and the smaller is for kids or very small adults. We dose with the larger bolus about every 8 months. So far, this has worked for us.
To administer the boluses, we skip the balling gun that so many people use. It’s just one more thing for us to drop into the mud, or to shove into our pockets. Our method of choice is to handle the goats one at a time, and give them animal crackers. Most of our animals would sell their best friends for a single animal cracker. They get one cracker, and then we shove the bolus into the back of their mouth, and quickly give them more animal crackers, being sure they don’t spit out the bolus in the process. Of our seven goats we treated this week, we only had one of them spit the bolus out. Thankfully, it’s easy to find in the dirt, and just shove it back in there. The packages all say it needs to be eaten whole, however we have not experienced issues with them being chewed partially before being swallowed. You may have a different experience.
What is important for your animals is that you are aware of their individual needs. Find a local farm vet if you are able, and work with them to figure out what will work on your farm. Do the best you can, and your goats will live happy, healthy lives.
This post was sponsored by our Patreon supporter Melina. Find her gorgeous hand dyed yarn on Facebook, Instagram, and Etsy, and find her knitting patterns on her website and Ravelry.
This post is meant to be informative, and is not intended to treat or cure a sick animal. It will not replace advice from your veterinarian.
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