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Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency in Goats

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By Carrie Miller | Mar 19, 2019

While each mineral listed below is super important, it is just as important not to overdose goats. Yes, you can overdose vitamins and minerals just like any other medication! This is called mineral/vitamin toxicity or toxemia. Before introducing any supplements, be sure to talk to a licensed veterinarian, and get blood work to confirm the diagnosis. This is especially important, since many deficiencies include the same symptoms, making diagnosing often difficult. A good quality loose mineral will help to fight against deficiencies, but some geographical areas are worse off than others, requiring additional supplemental support.

Copper

Typical signs of deficiency include: hair loss on the tip of the tail known as “fishtail,” crooked legs, stiff joints, diarrhea, anemia, loss of hair color (bleached out appearance), lameness, infertility or miscarriages, failure to shed their winter coat, high parasite loads, hair loss around the eyes, poor immune system, milk reduction, and even heart failure. Severe cases will require a copper bolus.

Iodine

Iodine deficiency can cause an array of symptoms: an enlarged thyroid, poor growth, reduced milk production, pregnancy toxemia, reproductive abnormalities, and infertility to name a few. To treat, you simply paint the tail web with an iodine solution. However, Iodine toxicity has a small margin of error, therefore please consult a veterinarian before administering iodine.

Sodium

A low sodium count can cause many issues, including but not limited to: heart issues, muscle contractions, slow growth, tremors, poor appetite, and a lack of coordination. When introducing salt or any minerals to their diets, make sure an endless supply of water is available. Sodium toxemia occurs when large quantities of salt are introduced or water availability is low.

Vitamin A

A lack of Vitamin A can cause a large array of issues: miscarriages, infertility, weak babies, cough, raspy breathing, diarrhea, decreased milk production, crooked head, thick nasal discharge, and even hair loss. Vitamin A supplements are available by injections, loose mineral, or multi-vitamin pastes.

Vitamin B

There are a lot of Vitamin Bs, therefore, you must make sure you are treating the correct deficiency. Lack of thiamine (Vitamin B1) can cause any of the following: anorexia, anemia, tremors, odd gait, diarrhea, infertility, blindness, full-body weakness, dermatitis, “goat polio” causing severe neurological problems, and low immune system. Thiamine (B1) requires a prescription. Low Vitamin B-12 can cause many of the same symptoms, but is a bit easier to treat with a Vitamin B Complex injection or paste which is readily available over-the-counter (OTC).

Vitamin E

Vitamin E deficiency seems to come out of nowhere, often causing sudden death, heart failure, severe fatigue, weak babies, stillbirths, the inability to stand or walk, shortness of breath, muscle atrophy, white muscle disease, and infertility in bucks. 

Zinc

Low Zinc can cause hair loss, diarrhea, constant foot rot, depression, slow healing wounds, sore feet, stiff joints, swollen joints, dermatitis, flaky skin, foaming mouth, miscarriages, and poor appetite. Zinc deficiency affects males much harder than females. It can cause males to be infertile or have low sperm rates, hair loss of the testicles, and even create small testicles. It’s often caused by a diet high in alfalfa being fed to “dry” non-milking females or male goats. The addition of Icelandic Kelp will help to maintain and fight against this deficiency, and other Zinc supplements are available.

Selenium

Selenium deficiency is a problem in a large portion of the United States. BoSe shots are often administered annually by a veterinarian, available by prescription only. Selenium Vitamin E paste is available over-the-counter at farm stores but is a lower dose. Selenium toxicity happens easily in goat because of misinformed owners, therefore it is always better to have your goat’s selenium levels checked. Symptoms can include: weight loss, rough coat, leg weakness, and low semen production in bucks. A safer method of ensuring proper levels is to add Icelandic Kelp to the goat’s daily diet. You can consult a map of affected areas on the U.S. Geological Survey website.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is also known as “rickets.” Watch for enlarged joints and bowed legs. The addition of a multi-vitamin paste is a great option. Even if it is cold, open the barn and let the herd out into the pasture on sunny days. The sun is the best medicine in this case. 

If you get nothing else from this article, please understand that proper goat nutrition is extremely complex. The addition of free choice goat minerals is just the beginning! Other helpful feed supplements are available such as Icelandic Kelp, black oiled sunflower seed (BOSS), and Goat Balancer form Manna Pro. Yearly or semi-annual herd checks by a veterinarian can help to catch deficiencies before they become a problem.

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