Why I Became A Goat Person Another great homesteading article that offers info on livestock. For many of us the only thing that keeps us from keeping livestock are state regulations. It’s hard to argue with them in some cases because of how we live on top of each other now. We also know at …
What you don’t know about copper deficiency, can hurt your goats
It all started with goat cheese more than 30 years ago.
When I had my first bite of goat cheese at a party, I was 19 years old. I wondered where this amazing food had been all my life. Why wasn’t everyone eating goat cheese? When we started our homestead in 2002, I wanted a couple of goats, so I could make that wonderful cheese, which was too expensive for me to buy as often as I wanted.
Making goat cheese, which I learned was called chévre, was incredibly easy.
However, raising goats wasn’t quite so easy…
…And I never expected the little darlings to steal my heart.
Then the problems started
My goats started having problems with infertility, losing babies at all stages of pregnancy, and even dying. I was determined to figure out why. About a third of our does were not getting pregnant. Some never came into heat. Some gave birth to babies too small to survive. For the first five years that we had goats, we never had a buck that lived past three years of age. I went to more than half a dozen vets, including the university vet hospital. I paid for necropsies and tests that told us nothing.
One day my teenage daughter said to me,
“Mom, I think our goats are copper deficient.”
She showed me the information she’d found online. The symptoms matched everything we saw with our goats. The suggestion was to get “injectable copper,” which was only available with a vet’s prescription. I called four different vets and asked for the prescription. They all said, if we were feeding a commercial goat feed and had loose minerals always available, copper deficiency was impossible.
Then one day…
…a doe died and left behind two scrawny looking doelings that were barely two-months-old.
Even though it was June, the doe had not shed her winter coat. She had not been pregnant the year before. I called the vet and asked for her liver to be tested for copper. He replied, “You’re wasting your money!” I said, “Well, it’s my money.”
A few days later…
…he called with the results. Normal copper levels in goats are 25 to 150 ppm.
My goat’s copper level was 4.8 ppm!
I again asked for the prescription copper and to my complete shock, he said “no.” He told me that just because her liver test showed low copper levels that didn’t mean that all of my goats were copper deficient. It was just a fluke.
So, I read and learned all I could…
…about using copper oxide wire particles (a supplement made for cattle) to increase the copper level of my goats. I purchased it and asked an experienced goat breeder how much to give my goats. The giant cattle boluses (a large pill) were ripped open and redistributed into smaller goat-sized capsules.
I only gave it to the goats that I thought had a deficiency.
Within two weeks, the goats that had the copper looked so much better than the goats that did not. It was an easy decision to give it to all of them. When the goats looked like they needed it (based on their coat conditions), I provided extra copper. The next fall all of my goats became pregnant. They all carried their pregnancies to term and gave birth to healthy babies. Our oldest buck celebrated his fourth birthday! He ultimately lived to be ten-years-old!
Causes of copper deficiency
Goats can have primary or secondary copper deficiency. Primary deficiency means they are not consuming enough copper. Secondary deficiency happens when they are consuming enough copper, but they are also consuming a copper antagonist that reduces how much copper they absorb. Providing a loose mineral may be all some goats need. On farms with well water that is high in minerals, the loose minerals may not be enough. Iron, sulfur, and calcium bind with copper and cause secondary copper deficiency. The well-water goats need even more copper.
Want to learn more?
Even though veterinary researchers and breeders have learned a lot about goats and copper in the last ten years, there is a lot of misinformation being passed around. Outdated websites are still shared on social media. I’m lucky that I teach college, so I have access to scholarly databases, which include published research studies in veterinary journals. However, most people can’t read the research unless they’re willing to spend $20 or more. A lot of the studies are hidden behind paywalls.
Unfortunately, most vets graduated from vet school more than ten years ago, which means they were taught that the risk of copper toxicity was the only thing they needed to know about copper. They were told that deficiency in goats was not a problem. Goats are also considered a “minor species,” not too many vets use their continuing education hours to update their goat knowledge. That means it’s tough to find reliable information.
If you are interested in keeping your goats happy and healthy, I’ve created a free online course about copper deficiency in goats.
No one else should have to learn the hard way like we did
Watching goats die or give birth to premature kids is heartbreaking. The symptoms and causes of copper deficiency are easy-to-recognize and easy-to-treat. But there is no one-size-fits-all dosage. It has to be customized to the goats on your farm. That means you have to be informed and empowered to recognize when you have a problem. Then, you’ll have the means to take action.
Best Goat Breeds For Your Homesteading Needs Animals can be a key part of the homesteading lifestyle. And few animals are as versatile as the goat. But which breed of goat can become a tricky question. Your needs are what drives your decision. If your primary need is milk production, for example, breeds like the …
“Dear Aunt Kathy,” my niece wrote, “my husband and I are readying ourselves to get some goats. Can you help me come up with a list of basic supplies we need before we bring them home?”
Those are excellent questions for anyone preparing to acquire goats, and I immediately began compiling a list of supplies I would recommend for new and prospective goat owners. Here is what I came up with. All total, it is 17 items to consider.
As with any livestock or pet, infrastructure is a key component to the safety, comfort, protection and ease of operation. You will need a shelter, fencing and gates. The importance of adequate infrastructure cannot be overstated—so much so that each of those three areas is a stand-alone topic. For purposes of this list, I will proceed upon the assumption that you will have already set up adequate ways to provide these crucial basics.
Next in line of importance is veterinary care. It is a wise idea to get set up with a veterinarian ahead of time. Many areas of the country have a shortage of livestock veterinarians. Goats are pretty hardy and you may not ever need to call the vet, but an emergency situation is no time to be calling around and reaching only dead ends that are not accepting new patients.
Make sure they are a 24-hour practice and will come out to the farm when you need them. If your goat is in crisis at 2 in the morning, it might be too late by the time the office opens at 8.
Large animal veterinarians in my area charge around $50 to pull into the driveway and about a dollar for each minute thereafter. Avoid sticker shock by asking beforehand. It is a good idea to find a vet who will work in a partnership for your goats’ health and is willing to teach you best practices along the way. Look for someone who will treat your animals with care, explain what you need to know, show you the best ways to treat and prevent future problems, and have an honest conversation about the prognosis.
Once the big picture essentials are taken care of, it is time to move on to the smaller stuff. First, I recommend a milk stand. It is a big investment, but one good quality stand will probably last your goats’ lifetime and beyond, and will save you countless headaches and frustration. You can either buy a heavy-duty metal model, or build a wooden one yourself using directions you can find online. Even if you know for sure that your goats will never be dairy animals, a milk stand enables one person working alone to sufficiently control a goat in order to prevent injury to either party. Trimming hooves, grooming coats, administering shots or medications, or examining for injuries or illness is much easier with the animal secured on a platform.
You will need to provide your goats with water, hay, grain and supplements. Honestly, you can get by with a dog dish for daily grain rations and an old drywall spackling bucket for water, shared between five kid goats. But a few proper supplies will make your goat-owning life a lot easier:
- Hook-over wall feeders. Square feeders with backs that lop over and hang on a horizontal 2×4; they are great for feed and supplements. They can be easily moved around, gathered up between feedings to keep them clean, and given an occasional scrubbing. They can be found at most farm supply stores in two or three sizes. The smallest one is just right for goat rations.
- Flat back water buckets and special hooks designed for hanging buckets are great. They can be hung on the wall high enough to minimize mess, and are hard for the goats to knock over and empty. Farm supply stores and catalogs offer them in a variety of sizes and fun colors.
- Hay feeders are a big plus. Feeding hay from the floor is never a good idea, as it can introduce parasites, and goats do not like it anyway. They will nibble at the choicest morsels and make a mess of the rest, and will absolutely not eat hay which has been soiled. An investment in one or two good quality metal hook-over hay feeders will save you aggravation and money.
Other hay feeder possibilities include homemade wooden types, customized plastic barrels, and other clever contraptions. Whatever your design, ensure that the goats can get into it enough to nose around and grab the perfect bites, will not get their head or horns stuck in it, and cannot jump in and either hurt themselves or ruin the hay.
You will need some supplies for hoof trimming. Scissors or trimmers and a rasp are all you need. The former is available from goat supply retailers, and the latter can be found at any hardware store.
Grooming needs are basic, but you may need to try more than one type of tool before you find just the right one for your goat’s coat. Some breeds do well with an inexpensive rubber tack brush designed for horses, and others have undercoats which are well-served with brushes designed for long-haired dogs.
You will need to keep a goat medicine cabinet available. There are a few items you should have right at the start, and always keep on hand. If your goat is sick, a call to the vet or an online search will likely direct you to one or more of these items.
- Rectal thermometer. As with humans, body temperature is often an indicator of something wrong. Use lubricant to make the event easier on everyone—either a tube of specialty stuff for goat birthing, or whatever you have on hand. Household petroleum jelly is fine, but just make sure to scoop some out before using it on goats, to avoid the risk of double-dipping. Use disposable gloves if it makes you feel better.
- Goat bloat treatment. Goat stomachs can go a little crazy on a sudden change of diet, and a bloat situation can become a crisis very quickly. Have a bottle of remedy on hand just in case, sold commercially at goat supply stores everywhere. Pepto-Bismol or baking soda are often recommended for goat belly aches, too.
- Pro-biotic paste. This is a gel packed with vitamins and nutrients, and is a great pick-me-up for multiple maladies. It comes in a tube with clear directions on the label, is inexpensive, and found just about everywhere goat supplies are found.
- Other medications will inevitably creep into your cabinet as time passes. As afflictions occur, you will purchase supplies to combat parasites, injuries and illnesses.
- If you plan to administer goat shots yourself, you will need syringes and needles. Farm stores and catalog retailers sell them inexpensively enough that it makes sense to keep a handful in stock. Needle sizes vary, but 20 gauge or 22 gauge work well for most goat vaccines.
- The most frequently used maintenance vaccine for goats is something called CD/T. You can find it at your farm store without a prescription, but it should be kept in the refrigerator, so you may have to ask for it. This guards against an overeating disease and tetanus.
Your goats will need bedding—straw is best, but they like wooden platforms as well—along with hay and grain to eat. Free-choice minerals and any other supplements recommended by the goat seller are good to have on hand as well.
Miscellaneous collars, leads and harnesses are fun and useful, but not essential. Breakaway collars—the type made of plastic chains that will break if the goat gets stuck somewhere—are often preferred for goats who are allowed a lot of free-range browse area.
If you intend to use a specific kind of training—such as clicker training, for example—have the training aids you need to begin on day one.
Insect control is important in some situations. Spray-on treatment from your farm store, or food-grade diatomaceous earth, can often make a difference.
Acquiring this list of basic supplies before your goats come home will help make the transition go smoothly and minimize stress for all involved, and can get you set up to enjoy your goats for years to come.
What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:
The Ultimate Guide to Raising Goats When living off the land, you essentially have three ways to get food. You can grow your own fruits and vegetables, hunt wild game, or raise animals. In this article, we’re going to focus on the latter. Specifically, we’re going to talk about how to raise goats. Raising goats …
Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Willow101. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today. The Lowly Goat I have been a prepper since just before Y2K. It […]